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Army ant behaviour in the poneromorph hunting ant Onychomyrmex hedleyi Emery (Hymenoptera: Formicidae; Amblyoponinae)

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Abstract

Onychomyrmex belongs to the phylogenetically basal ant tribe Amblyoponini but shows prototypical army ant behaviours, i.e. group predation and nomadism. In order to investigate these behaviours, Onychomyrmex hedleyi was observed in the field and in laboratory experiments. Workers of O. hedleyi would frequently hunt centipedes but rarely social insects. Workers did not dismember the victims but recruited the colony mates to conduct group retrieval. If the prey were too large or too heavy to retrieve, the entire colony moved from the bivouac site to the prey site. Although foraging on the forest floor, a colony repeated the extension and withdrawal of a raiding column, which was up to 80 cm long (mean ± SD, 41.6 ± 18.5 cm). Colonies were nomadic and the relocation distance was up to 150 cm (mean ± SD, 74.4 ± 45.0 cm). Retinues guarded a queen who moved to a new bivouac site in the early phase of relocation. Colonies were found to stay at a site statistically longer if they had come from a more distant site, and were also observed to move to a more distant site if they had spent a longer time at a particular bivouac site. The consecutive migrations did not show significant directionality.
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Keywords: Amblyoponini; army ant behaviour; group predation; nomadism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Takenaka Research and Development Institute, Otsuka, Inzai, Chiba 270-1395, Japan. 2: Graduate School of Environmental Earth Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-0810, Japan.

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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