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Functional architecture of leaf-cutting ant nests: the construction of underground waste chambers in Atta laevigata

Grant number: 15/23835-6
Support type:Research Grants - Visiting Researcher Grant - International
Duration: April 12, 2016 - April 26, 2016
Field of knowledge:Agronomical Sciences - Agronomy - Plant Health
Principal Investigator:Luiz Carlos Forti
Grantee:Luiz Carlos Forti
Visiting researcher: Flavio Roces
Visiting researcher institution: Universität Würzburg, Germany
Home Institution: Faculdade de Ciências Agronômicas (FCA). Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus de Botucatu. Botucatu , SP, Brazil

Abstract

The aim of the present co-operative project is to understand the mechanisms underlying the excavation of waste chambers in the leaf-cutting ant species Atta laevigata, and so the emergence of a functional nest architecture for waste management. Previous research by Prof. Forti (UNESP, Botucatu) and co-workers has characterized the architecture of large nests of this species (Moreira et al., 2004b). Even though the occurrence of waste chambers in this species was not reported by the authors, additional field work in the framework of a cooperation between Prof. L. Forti and Prof. F. Roces (as a visiting scientist in the year 2010, supported by FAPESP 2010/00204-7 evidenced the existence of huge waste chambers in field nests (unpublished results), which were so far not described for this species. During the present co-operative project, the morphology of initial nests will be described to investigate the emergence of waste chambers in young nests of A. laevigata, and it will be investigated in the laboratory whether midden workers of this species show preferences for variables of the soil environment that may help explain the spatial location of the excavated waste chambers. To that aim, it is planned to combine field research in areas around Botucatu, with laboratory experiments to be performed at the Department of Proteção de Plantas, Faculdade de Agronomia - UNESP, Botucatu. (AU)