Myrmica rubra: Do They Need Experience? Ants Are More Communicative When Young: Do They Need Experience?

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Abstract

The role of experience in the development of communication in animals is a matter of special interest to many ethologists and psychologists. Ants are known to possess sophisticated and flexible communication systems based mainly on their antennal movements (Reznikova & Ryabko, 2011). However, it is still enigmatic whether young ants need stimulation performances by adults to develop their communication capacities. Experiments with pairwise interactions of Myrmica rubra ants revealed significant differences in individual behavior and the mode of communication in callow (newly emerged) and adult workers. Adult ants are much more mobile than callow ones, and they switch their behavior depending on what partner they interact with, whereas callows behave independently. Adults communicate with callows and queens much longer than with other adults. Both callows and queens seem to be rather attractive to adults, although in different ways. Adults pay close attention to callow ants and initiate prolonged antennal contacts with them, touching their bodies and not leaving them alone. Young (callow) ants appear to be more communicative than adults, and they are equally ready to communicate with each other and with adults. Antennal movements are slow and clumsy in young ants, and they often switch from communication to other activities. It is likely that patterns of antennal movements in callows change gradually. Peculiarities of the mode of communication enable us to speculate that young ants need prolonged contacts with adult nestmates to gain the experience of communication. Some parallels with the development of communication skills in vertebrate species are considered.

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