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Psyche
Volume 2012, Article ID 383757, 8 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/383757
Research Article

Impact of Interference Competition on Exploration and Food Exploitation in the Ant Lasius niger

1Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale, UPS, Université de Toulouse, 118 route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse Cedex 9, France
2Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale, CNRS, 118 route de Narbonne, 31062 Toulouse Cedex 9, France
3Service d’Ecologie Sociale (CP 231), Université Libre de Bruxelles, 50 Avenue F Roosevelt, 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium

Received 4 February 2012; Accepted 1 March 2012

Academic Editor: Felipe Andrés León Contrera

Copyright © 2012 Vincent Fourcassié et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Competition acts as a major force in shaping spatially and/or temporally the foraging activity of ant colonies. Interference competition between colonies in particular is widespread in ants where it can prevent the physical access of competitors to a resource, either directly by fighting or indirectly, by segregating the colony foraging areas. Although the consequences of interference competition on ant distribution have been well studied in the literature, the behavioral mechanisms underlying interference competition have been less explored. Little is known on how ants modify their exploration patterns or the choice of a feeding place after experiencing aggressive encounters. In this paper, we show that, at the individual level, the aphid-tending ant Lasius niger reacts to the presence of an alien conspecific through direct aggressive behavior and local recruitment in the vicinity of fights. At the colony level, however, no defensive recruitment is triggered and the “risky” area where aggressive encounters occur is not specifically avoided during further exploration or food exploitation. We discuss how between-species differences in sensitivity to interference competition could be related to the spatial and temporal predictability of food resources at stake.