Macquarie University
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Foraging ecology of the Australian desert ant Melophorus bagoti

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posted on 2022-03-28, 20:01 authored by Patrick Schultheiss
Melophorus bagoti is a solitary foraging desert ant of Central Australia. As part of a major endeavour to study insect navigation it has recently attracted considerable attention, calling for an intimate knowledge of its foraging ecology. This thesis examines foraging traits on the colony level, and investigates the strategies that are used by foragers when searching for resources. Foraging activity is limited to a window of ca. 50-70°C soil surface temperature, when foragers scavenge opportunistically for food items. Although seemingly capable of laying chemical trails when moving the colony, recruitment behaviour towards large food sources appears to work without the use of pheromone trails. When unable to locate a single target, like a food source or the nest entrance, foragers engage in a systematic search. The size of their search paths is flexible, which allows them to increase search efficiency. To this end, several different cues are used, which inform the foragers of the whereabouts of the target. In food searches, size depends on the type of food, and matches the natural distribution pattern of food items. In nest searches, size depends on the accuracy of the path integrator, which is a navigational tool that accumulates errors. In addition, it depends on the presence of visual navigation cues in the surrounding panorama, and on the amount of information that can be derived from these visual cues. Interestingly, presence or absence of visual cues also changes the movement pattern of searching foragers. Taken together, these results demonstrate how closely searching behaviour is linked with a forager's navigational toolkit, and with its environment.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- 1. Foraging patterns and strategies in an Australian desert ant -- 2. Nest relocation and colony founding in the Australian desert ant Melophorus bagoti -- 3. Finding food: outbound searching behaviour in the Australian desert ant Melophorus bagoti -- 4. Finding the nest: inbound searching behaviour in the Australian desert ant Melophorus bagoti -- 5. Information content of visual scenes influences systematic search of desert ants -- Conclusion -- Appendices.


Some parts were removed due to copyright restrictions. Thesis by publication. Includes bibliographical references

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Science, Department of Biological Sciences

Department, Centre or School

Department of Biological Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Ken Cheng

Additional Supervisor 1

Simon Griffith


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Patrick Schultheis 2012.




1 online resource (vi, 176 pages) illustrations

Former Identifiers

mq:28162 2003169