Student Research Paper
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Animals' foraging strategies are directly related to their fitness. Proposed models of optimal foraging assume that animals strategize in terms of maximizing benefits over the cost of acquiring resources. Ants are social insects that are comparable in biomass to humans inhabiting the plant. As such, it is crucial to understand the foraging strategies of such an influential member of the ecosystem. With the ever-increasing rate of urbanization and human encroachment, it is even more important to consider the foraging patterns of species inhabiting urban areas. In this study we investigate optimal foraging strategies in the pavement ant, Tetramorium caespitum. Specifically, our study examined if pavement ant colonies would alter their foraging behavior so as to maximize benefits and minimize costs. To do this, we exposed the ants to food of two varying nutritional qualities to test how they allocated foragers across these two resources.Food quantity, distance to the food source and terrain were the same in both types of resources. Across a two day period, we saw that T. caespitum colonies increased ant recruitment when food quality increased and decreased ant recruitment when food quality decreased. Our control treatments where food quality did not change also did not see a change in ant recruitment. This study shows that species that live in urban areas, such as T. caespitum, can adapt to forage optimally. Studies like this can be used to make predictions about survival of species that are newly associated with urban environments.
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Crofton, Nicole A.; D'Mello, Sabrina R.; and Sy, Nene S., "Foraging Behavior of Tetramorium Caespitum in an Urban Environment: the Effect of Food Quality on Foraging" (2016). Student Publications. 589.