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Selection and sharing of sheltered nest sites by ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in grasslands of the Australian Capital Territory

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In this study, it was investigated whether ants nesting under artificial rocks in a mesic south-eastern Australian grassland showed preference for nest sites with different temperature regimes. The study also allowed evaluation of competition between species for nest sites and observations of seasonality in brood and alate production in the nests of four common ant groups. On every sampling occasion more than 90% of nests were either Iridomyrmex spp., Rhytidoponera ‘metallica’, Paratrechina sp. or Pheidole spp. Soil underneath thinner artificial rocks had higher average temperatures and warmed up earlier in the day and Iridomyrmex spp. and R. ‘metallica’ showed preference for establishing nests under these. While all ant nests had summer peaks in brood production, Iridomyrmex spp. and R. ‘metallica’ had brood observed throughout the year. Winged reproductives were commonly encountered in Iridomyrmex spp., R. ‘metallica’ and Paratrechina sp. nests, but only occasionally Pheidole spp. nests. Alates were present in the nests from February but released by all taxa after spring rains and were scarcely recorded in November, December and January when brood production was observed in most nests. Nest sites that offer protection from predators are an obvious advantage, but improved reproductive success can be gained in cool regions such as the mesic grasslands of the Australian Capital Territory by choosing nest sites with an optimal thermal regime.
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Keywords: Iridomyrmex; Rhytidoponera metallica; competition; nest selection; temperature

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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