Benefits of dispersed central-place foraging: An individualbased model of a polydomous ant colony

Amelie Schmolke

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26 Scopus citations


Colonies of many ant species are not confined to a single nest but inhabit several dispersed nests, a colony organization referred to as polydomy. The benefits of polydomy are not well understood. It has been proposed that increased foraging efficiency promotes polydomy. In a spatially explicit individual-based model, I compare the foraging success of monodomous and polydomous colonies in environments with varying food distributions. Multiple nests increased the colony's foraging success if food sources were randomly scattered in the environment. Monodomous and polydomous colonies did not differ in foraging success if food sources were clustered in one or three locations. These results support the hypothesis that foraging success serves as a driver for polydomous colony organization. Because transport may occur between the dispersed nests of a polydomous colony, I tested the efficiency of a simple mechanism of food exchange between nests. This mechanism, as introduced previously in the literature, proves insufficient to equalize the level of food between nests. While the importance of transport between nests remains unclear, the model results indicate that polydomy may increase the foraging success of ant colonies and that this effect may be robust across a range of food distributions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)772-778
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2009


  • Ant foraging
  • Individual-based model
  • Polydomy
  • Temnothorax rugatulus


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