Be meek or be bold? A colony-level behavioural syndrome in ants

S. E. Bengston, A. Dornhaus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Consistent individual variation in animal behaviour is nearly ubiquitous and has important ecological and evolutionary implications. Additionally, suites of behavioural traits are often correlated, forming behavioural syndromes in both humans and other species. Such syndromes are often described by testing for variation in traits across commonly described dimensions (e.g. aggression and neophobia), independent of whether this variation is ecologically relevant to the focal species. Here, we use a variety of ecologically relevant behavioural traits to test for a colony-level behavioural syndrome in rock ants (Temnothorax rugatulus). Specifically, we combine field and laboratory assays to measure foraging effort, how colonies respond to different types of resources, activity level, response to threat and aggression level. We find evidence for a colony level syndrome that suggests colonies consistently differ in coping style- some are more risk-prone, whereas others are more risk-averse. Additionally, by collecting data across the North American range of this species, we show that environmental variation may affect how different populations maintain consistent variation in colony behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20140518
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1791
StatePublished - Aug 6 2014


  • Behavioural syndromes
  • Personality
  • Risk-tolerance
  • Social insects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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