Division of labour promotes the spread of information in colony emigrations by the ant Temnothorax rugatulus

Gabriele Valentini, Naoki Masuda, Zachary Shaffer, Jake R. Hanson, Takao Sasaki, Sara Imari Walker, Theodore P. Pavlic, Stephen C. Pratt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The fitness of group-living animals often depends on how well members share information needed for collective decision-making. Theoretical studies have shown that collective choices can emerge in a homogeneous group of individuals following identical rules, but real animals show much evidence for heterogeneity in the degree and nature of their contribution to group decisions. In social insects, for example, the transmission and processing of information is influenced by a well-organized division of labour. Studies that accurately quantify how this behavioural heterogeneity affects the spread of information among group members are still lacking. In this paper, we look at nest choices during colony emigrations of the ant Temnothorax rugatulus and quantify the degree of behavioural heterogeneity of workers. Using clustering methods and network analysis, we identify and characterize four behavioural castes of workers—primary, secondary, passive and wandering—covering distinct roles in the spread of information during an emigration. This detailed characterization of the contribution of each worker can improve models of collective decision-making in this species and promises a deeper understanding of behavioural variation at the colony level.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20192950
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1924
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Apr 8
Externally publishedYes


  • Collective decision making
  • Colony emigration
  • Division of labour
  • Information spread
  • Network analysis
  • Temnothorax rugatulus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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