Evol Ecol Res 5: 297-303 (2003)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Allometric scaling of ant foraging trail networks

Joseph Jun,1,2 John W. Pepper,1 Van M. Savage,1,3* James F. Gillooly4 and James H. Brown1,4

1Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501, 2Center for Complex Systems Research, Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1110 W. Green Street, Urbana, IL 61801, 3Theoretical Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545 and 4Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: van@santafe.edu


The aggregation of individuals into colonies raises important questions about scaling of structure and function. We model the metabolic benefits and costs of two-dimensional, fractal-like foraging trails, such as those used by ant colonies. Total area foraged by the colony and, consequently, resource flow to the nest and rate of colony metabolism, increase non-linearly with number of foragers (F) as F2/3. Since the cost of foraging increases linearly with F, the model predicts an optimal number of foragers and, therefore, total foraging area that maximize colony fitness or energy allocation to reproduction. The scaling of foraging may influence evolution of coloniality.

Keywords: allometry, coloniality, foraging, optimal networks, social insects.

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