Rescue Behavior in Mediterranean and North American Ant Species



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The phenomenon of altruistic behavior, wherein one member of a species provides aid to another member without immediate reward to itself, has been documented in many animal species. Social insects, such as ants, are known to engage in altruistic behavior, and individuals will even place their own safety at risk to engage in rescue behavior. Tetramorium caespitum and Prenolepis impairs are two North American ant species that live in the northeastern United States. In their natural environment these species live in close proximity, interacting frequently and possibly competing over resources. Aphaenogaster senilis, Lasius grandis, Cataglyphis floricola, Messor marocanus, and Messor barbarous are Mediterranean species that live in southern Spain, and have similar proximities in the wild and thus similar potential for interaction. Given the level of social structure of the species and their interactions with each other, it is possible that the colonies may exhibit altruistic behavior towards nestmates or members of other local colonies. Individuals from each species were tested to determine its reaction toward an artificially restrained ant, to ascertain if rescue behavior could be elicited. The restrained or ‘snared’ ant was intended to mimic a natural distress situation, such as when an ant becomes entrapped by falling debris or a predator. The identity of the snared ant was varied to determine if behavior might be conditional on colony membership, or species of the ant.



rescue, altruism, helping behaviour, species recognition, kin recognition, individual recognition