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Growth and survival of the superorganism: ant colony macronutrient intake and investment
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  • Yeisson Gutiérrez,
  • Tung Phung,
  • Harald Mumma,
  • Arden Ambrose-Winters,
  • Christoph Scherber,
  • Chris Smith
Yeisson Gutiérrez
University of Münster
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Tung Phung
Earlham College
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Harald Mumma
Earlham College
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Arden Ambrose-Winters
Earlham College
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Christoph Scherber
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
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Chris Smith
Earlham College
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Abstract

In this study, we used two common ant species (Lasius niger and L. neoniger) to assay how they translate variation in the diet (both in composition and frequency) into growth. We measured colony development for over 8 months and measured several phenotypic traits of the worker caste, and examined whether forager preference corresponded with diet quality. Individuals (workers) and colonies (superorganisms) increased in size with increasing amounts of protein in the diet, and as a function of how much food was available. Optimal colony growth was a balance between survival and growth, and each of these were maximized with different nutrient regimes. Interestingly, forager preference was not totally aligned with the diet that maximized colony growth. Our results highlight that: 1) organism and superorganism size are controlled by the same nutrients, and this may reflect a common molecular basis for size across life’s organizational levels, 2) there are nutrient trade-offs that are associated with life-history trade-offs, likely leading to selection for a balanced diet, and 3) the connection between the preference of foragers for different nutrients and how nutrient combinations affect colony success and demographics are complex and only beginning to be understood.

Peer review status:ACCEPTED

19 Jan 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
21 Jan 2020Submission Checks Completed
21 Jan 2020Assigned to Editor
29 Jan 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
21 Feb 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
28 Feb 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
30 May 20201st Revision Received
01 Jun 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
01 Jun 2020Submission Checks Completed
01 Jun 2020Assigned to Editor
05 Jun 2020Editorial Decision: Accept