12.02.2012

Ants

Ant in a flight mill

Ant societies display extensive variation in social structure, with the number of resident queens varying between one and several hundred. This makes them an ideal system for studying causes and consequences of social variation. They are a long standing model system for molecular ecology and kin selected social behaviour, both with respect to cooperation and within-colony conflicts. Our aim is to use them to investigate the evolutionary consequences of social variation, and in this work we use broad range of species mostly within the genera Formica (dominant ant group of boreal ecosystems) and Myrmica.

Ants also comprise some of the worst global pest species. Many invasive ants, such as the argentine ant Linepithema humile, the invasive garden ant Lasius neglectus and the Pharaoh ant Monomorium pharaonis exhibit an exceptional “supercolonial” social system where nests form huge networks without territorial borders. Such supercolonies result in extremely low relatedness among nestmate individuals, and it has been suggested that these exceptional systems represent evolutionary dead ends due to the harmful effects of low relatedness on societies.