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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

SUBCASTE COMPOSITION OF ATTA CEPHALOTES FORAGING COLUMNS IN A TROPICAL CLOUD FOREST

Abstract

Atta cephalotes (Formicidae: Attini) is a leaf-cutter ant species that occurs throughout the Neotropics. The Atta worker caste system includes three subcastes (soldiers, foragers, minims) that perform different tasks. Soldiers are large ants that defend the foraging column from large predators and remove debris from the foraging path. Foragers are smaller ants that cut leaf fragments from forests and transport fragments to the subterranean nest where they are provisioned to mutualistic Leucoagaricus fungi. Minims are the smallest subcaste members and defend the foraging column against a variety of threats. We investigated whether subcaste representation differed in day and night foraging columns of A. cephalotes in a tropical cloud forest near San Luis, Monteverde, Costa Rica in June 2019. Four separate foraging columns were filmed (three 30 s videos each) during the day (1200-1700 h) and night (1900-2300 h). The number of ants in each subcaste was counted via slow motion video replay. Two-factor ANOVA (with replication) revealed significant differences in subcaste numbers (more foragers than minims and soldiers, F2,23 = 5.03, P = 0.02) and the numbers of ants in day versus night foraging columns (more ants at night, F1,23 = 4.65, P = 0.04). Subcaste representation did not differ between day and night foraging episodes [no interaction between subcaste representation and time of day (F2,23 = 1.09, P = 0.36)]. Although night foraging columns were larger than day foraging columns, caste representation remained consistent regardless of foraging time.

Acknowledgements

UNG Dept. of Biology, CIEE-San Luis, Danyelle Aganovic

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