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In addition to foraging individually several species of ants guide nestmates to a goal by tandem running. We found that the Australian ant, Camponotus consobrinus, forages both individually and by tandem running to head to the same goal, nest-specific native Australian trees on which they forage. While paths of solitary foragers and initial paths of tandem followers showed no differences in heading directions or straightness, tandem followers moved at about half the speed of solitary runs. When leaders were experimentally removed, follower ants initially engaged in a systematic search around the point of interruption, following which they either (a) headed directly towards and successfully reached the foraging trees, or (b) continued searching or (c) returned to the nest. The high incidence of followers that successfully navigated towards the foraging trees on their own provides strong evidence that many tandem followers are in fact experienced foragers. Detailed analysis of the searching behaviour revealed that even seemingly lost followers displayed a directional bias towards the foraging trees in their search path. Our results show that in a foraging context follower ants in a tandem pair are not always naïve.
Bibliographical noteCorrigendum of this article published in Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 29331 (2016), doi:10.1038/srep29331
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