Tropical Ecology and Conservation [Monteverde Institute]

Alternative Title

¿Está organizado el tráfico en los caminos de las hormigas zompopas Atta cephalotes?


Angela C. Rao



Download Full Text (461 KB)

Publication Date

November 2001


The leaf cutting tribe Attini (Formicidae: Myrmicinae) shows numerous adaptations that increase foraging efficiency. Such adaptations are seen in their highly polymorphic caste systems, trails branching from many different exit holes, clearing and maintenance of foraging trails, and pheromonal signaling and recruitment. It is reasonable to assume that mechanisms exist that would reduce incidence of collisions, traffic jams, etc., on foraging trails. This hypothesis was tested by recording trail density and time, linear distance, and direction of ant travel on the trails of Atta Cephalotes and looking for certain trends. Ants traveling towards the nest were not found to vary much from those traveling away from the nest. Because of this and the lack of distance and speed dependence on ant density or direction, it was concluded that some form of organization may exist on foraging trails. The most likely explanation for this is the presence of some organization method such as pheromone trails with a maximum trail width and yielding of ants traveling towards the foraging source to ants carrying leaves. La tribu de las zompopas Attini (Formicidae: Myrmicinae) muestran muchas adaptaciones para aumentar la eficiencia de forrajeo. Esas adaptaciones se pueden ver en su alto polimorfismo de castas, el uso de senderos en aberturas diferentes de los nidos, el mantenimiento y limpieza de senderos y el uso de feromonas para marcar senderos. Es razonable asumir que existen mecanismos que podrían reducir la incidencia de colisiones en los senderos. Esta hipótesis se probó al tomar datos de densidad, tiempo, distancia linear y la dirección a la que la hormiga viaja en el sendero. Las hormigas que viajaron hacia el nido no mostraron diferencias con las que lo hicieron lejos del sendero. Porque no se encontraron una dependencia en la distancia y la velocidad con la densidad o la dirección, se concluyó que algún tipo de organización debe existir en los senderos. La explicación más aceptable es que la organización se da por el uso de feromonas con un ancho máximo de sendero donde las hormigas viajan acarreando las hojas.


Ants--Behavior, Hormigas--Comportamiento, Atta (Insects), Atta (Insectos), Costa Rica--Guanacaste--Cañitas, Costa Rica--Puntarenas--Monteverde Zone, Costa Rica--Puntarenas--Zona de Monteverde, CIEE Fall 2001, CIEE Otoño 2001


Student affiliation : Department of Zoology, University of Washington Digitized by MVI

Subject: topical

Ants--Behavior; Hormigas--Comportamiento; Atta (Insects); Atta (Insectos); CIEE Fall 2001; CIEE Otoño 2001

Subject: geographic

Costa Rica--Guanacaste--Cañitas; Costa Rica--Puntarenas--Monteverde Zone; Costa Rica--Puntarenas--Zona de Monteverde



Holding Location

Monteverde Institute MVI



Is traffic organized on trails of the leaf cutting ant Atta cephalotes?



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.