Macronutrient regulation in the Rasberry crazy ant (Nylanderia sp nr. pubens)
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Animals grow and optimize performance when they collect foods in amounts and ratios that best meet their species-specific nutritional requirements. For eusocial organisms like ants, where only a small fraction of the colony members collect food, increasing evidence demonstrates that strong macronutrient regulation occurs at the colony level. Here, we explored regulation of protein and carbohydrate (p:c) intake in the Rasberry crazy ant, Nylanderia sp. nr. puben. We did this using dry artificial foods (14-42% total macronutrient content) having a range of fixed p:c ratios in a series of choice and no-choice laboratory experiments and used worker mortality to gauge colony-level costs associated with active nutrient regulation. Choice experiments revealed that colonies preferred carbohydrate-rich foods and self-selected a diet having a p:c ratio ~1:2. No-choice experiments demonstrated that food p:c ratio only moderately affected worker food collection behavior, likely because colonies regulated the intake of only the non-limiting nutrients. Absolute worker mortality was generally high, but lowest in colonies feeding on the food having a p:c ratio of 1:2 (the p:c ratio ants self-selected in the choice experiment), although mortality was not significantly affected by food p:c ratio. The self-selected p:c ratio in our study is consistent with that observed in other recent ant nutrient regulation studies. Taken together, the results from these combined studies reveal emerging commonalities among ants in macronutrient regulation strategies, and similarities in foraging behaviors and costs associated with macronutrient regulation. Finally, from a methodological perspective, the high mortality observed in our study, when compared with other recent studies, suggests that ant nutrient regulation studies should be conducted using foods having high moisture and total macronutrient content. 2011 International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI).