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当前位置: Science » 植物&动物 » Science:"大多数工蚁是懒鬼


摘要 : 蚂蚁和蜜蜂素以良好的团队合作精神著称。对于一种生活在北美松林里的褐色小蚁——切胸蚁(Temnothorax rugatulus)而言,劳动分工很常见,其中工蚁一般负责觅食、建筑和护理幼虫。


蚂蚁和蜜蜂素以良好的团队合作精神著称。对于一种生活在北美松林里的褐色小蚁——切胸蚁(Temnothorax rugatulus)而言,劳动分工很常见,其中工蚁一般负责觅食、建筑和护理幼虫。然而一项最新研究显示,许多切胸工蚁似乎专门负责什么都不干 。为了仔细观察这些蚂蚁一天的时间是如何度过的,研究人员先是为实验室饲养的五个蚁群中的每只蚂蚁挨个标记上点状彩色涂料。在两周时间里,一架高清摄像机每天对着这些蚂蚁录制六段活动视频,每段五分钟,看看它们都在干(或不干)什么。根据上月发表在《行为生态学和生物社会学》( Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology )的研究结果,在所有工蚁中,有71.9%的工蚁至少有一半时间在闲着,另外25.1%的工蚁则从来没见过它们干活。只有区区2.6%的工蚁拍摄期间始终在忙碌。虽然早前的研究认为不干活的工蚁可能只是在暂时休息,因为他们会在生理节律的控制下倒班工作,但这项研究表明,那些懒惰的工蚁无论一天的什么时候都懒得动窝。该小组称,这种情况并非只是暂时休息,而可能是一种特意的、重要的分工方式。虽然这样分工的具体作用尚不得而知,但有一种理论可能是,那些不活动的工蚁是因为年龄太小或太大而不适合工作。未来的、延续时间更长的研究可能会捕捉到蚂蚁在忙碌模式和懒惰模式之间的转化过程。


Workers ‘specialized’ on inactivity: Behavioral consistency of inactive workers and their role in task allocation



Social insect colonies are often considered to be highly efficient collective systems, with division of labor at the root of their ecological success. However, in many species, a large proportion of a colony’s workers appear to spend their time completely inactive. The role of this inactivity for colony function remains unclear. Here, we investigate how inactivity is distributed among workers and over time in the ant Temnothorax rugatulus. We show that the level of inactivity is consistent for individual workers, but differs significantly among workers, that is, some workers effectively specialize on ‘inactivity’. We also show that workers have circadian rhythms, although intra-nest tasks tend to be performed uniformly across the whole day. Differences in circadian rhythms, or workers taking turns resting (i.e., working in shifts), cannot explain the observation that some workers are consistently inactive. Using extensive individual-level data to describe the overall structure of division of labor, we show that ‘inactive workers’ form a group distinct from other task groups. Hierarchical clustering suggests that inactivity is the primary variable in differentiating both workers and tasks. Our results underline the importance of inactivity as a behavioral state and the need for further studies on its evolution.

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