Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Foraging ecology of the night-active bull ant Myrmecia pyriformis

Samuel F. Reid A B C D , Ajay Narendra A B , Robert W. Taylor B and Jochen Zeil A B

A ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

B Division of Evolution, Ecology and Genetics, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Building 46, Biology Place, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

C Present address: The Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), EMBL-CRG Systems Biology Unit, Barcelona 08003, Spain.

D Corresponding author. Email: sam.reid@crg.eu

Australian Journal of Zoology 61(2) 170-177 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/ZO13027
Submitted: 23 March 2013  Accepted: 11 June 2013   Published: 1 July 2013

Abstract

Here we report on the nocturnal bull ant Myrmecia pyriformis, a species whose activity to and from the nest is mainly restricted to the dawn and dusk twilight respectively. Recent research on M. pyriformis has focussed on its visual system, the timing of activity patterns, and the navigational strategies employed by individuals while foraging. There is, however, a lack of basic ecological information about this species. The present study describes the behaviour and foraging ecology of wild populations of M. pyriformis. We find that most foragers make only one foraging journey per night, leaving the nest at dusk twilight and returning during dawn twilight. Individuals who make multiple trips typically return with prey. We provide evidence that foragers imbibe liquid food while abroad and likely share these resources via trophallaxis once within the nest. Activity during the night varies with moon illumination, and we postulate that this is due to changes in light levels, which influence navigation to and from the nest. This hypothesis is supported by observations of activity during overcast conditions. Finally, we also describe some aspects of colony founding, colony demise and the behaviour of reproductive individuals during the mating season.

Additional keywords: activity pattern, moon, Myrmecia, nocturnal.


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