Tracking Individuals Shows Spatial Fidelity Is a Key Regulator of Ant Social Organization
Ants live in organized societies with a marked division of labor among workers, but little is known about how this division of labor is generated. We used a tracking system to continuously monitor individually tagged workers in six colonies of the ant Camponotus fellah over 41 days. Network analyses of more than 9 million interactions revealed three distinct groups that differ in behavioral repertoires. Each group represents a functional behavioral unit with workers moving from one group to the next as they age. The rate of interactions was much higher within groups than between groups. The precise information on spatial and temporal distribution of all individuals allowed us to calculate the expected rates of within- and between-group interactions. These values suggest that the network of interaction within colonies is primarily mediated by age-induced changes in the spatial location of workers.