Linking Colony Size with Foraging Behavior and Brain Investment in Odorous Ants (Formicidae: Dolichoderinae)

R. Keating Godfrey, Wulfila Gronenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Superorganisms represent a unique level of biological organization in which the phenotype of the reproductive unit, the colony, results from traits expressed at the level of individual workers. Because body size scaling has important consequences for cell diversity and system complexity in solitary organisms, colony size is a trait of particular interest in superorganism evolution. In some instances, division of labor and worker polymorphism scale with colony size, but in general little is known about how colony size drives differences in individual-level behavior or neural traits. Ants represent the greatest diversity of superorganisms and provide a manner of natural experiment to test trends in trait evolution across multiple instances of colony size expansion. In this study, we control for environmental differences and worker size polymorphism to test if colony size correlates with measures of foraging behavior and brain size in dolichoderine ants. We present data from 3 species ranked by colony size. Our results suggest colony size correlates with measures of exploratory behavior and brain investment, with small-colony ants showing higher exploratory drive and faster exploration rate than the larger colony species, and greater relative investment in the primary olfactory brain region, the antennal lobe, than the larger colony species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-24
Number of pages10
JournalBrain, Behavior and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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