Spatial patterns, temporal variability, and the role of multi-nest colonies in a monogynous Spanish desert ant

Xim Cerdá, Abdallah Dahbi, Javier Retana

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46 Citations (Scopus)


1. The colonies of the Spanish desert ant Cataglyphis iberica are polydomous. This study describes the temporal and spatial patterns of the polydomy in this species at two different sites, and presents analyses of its role in reducing the attacks of the queen over sexual brood, and in allowing better habitat exploitation. 2. The spatial distribution of nests was clumped while colonies were distributed randomly. Mean nearest neighbour distance ranged from 3.4 to 7.0 m for nests and from 12.3 to 14.1 m for colonies. Distance of foragers searching for food varied among nests: mean values were between 6.1 and 12.6 m. 3. At both sites, the maximum number of nests per colony occurred in summer, during the maximum activity period of the species. Colonies regrouped at the end of this period but overwintered in several nests. 4. Nest renewal in C. iberica colonies was high and showed great temporal variability: nests changed (open, close, re-open) continuously through the activity season and/or among years. The lifetime of up to 55% of nests was only 1-3 months. 5. Polydomy in C. iberica might decrease the interactions between the queen and the sexual brood. In all colonies excavated just before the mating period, the nest containing the queen did not contain any virgin female. Females were in the queenless nests of the colony. 6. The results also suggest that polydomous C. iberica colonies may enhance habitat exploitation because foraging activity per colony increases with nest number. The relationship between total prey input and foraging efficiency and number of nests per colony attains a plateau or even decreases after a certain colony size (four to six nests). This value agrees with the observed mean number of nests per colony in C. iberica.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-15
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2002


  • Ant
  • Cataglyphis iberica
  • Foraging activity
  • Foraging efficiency
  • Habitat exploitation
  • Nest distribution
  • Polydomy


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