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Worker Size Diversity Has No Effect on Overwintering Success under Natural Conditions in the Ant Temnothorax nylanderi

Abstract : Winter is a difficult period for animals that live in temperate zones. It can inflict high mortality or induce weight loss with potential consequences on performance during the growing season. Social groups include individuals of various ages and sizes. This diversity may improve the ability of groups to buffer winter disturbances such as starvation or cold temperature. Studies focusing on the buffering role of social traits such as mean size and diversity of group members under winter conditions are mainly performed in the laboratory and investigate the effect of starvation or cold separately. Here, we experimentally decreased worker size diversity and manipulated worker mean size within colonies in order to study the effect on overwintering survival in the ant Temnothorax nylanderi. Colonies were placed under natural conditions during winter. Colony survival was high during winter and similar in all treatments with no effect of worker size diversity and mean worker size. Higher brood survival was positively correlated with colony size (i.e., the number of workers). Our results show that the higher resistance of larger individuals against cold or starvation stresses observed in the laboratory does not directly translate into higher colony survival in the field. We discuss our results in the light of mechanisms that could explain the possible non-adaptive size diversity in social species.
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Submitted on : Monday, May 3, 2021 - 3:18:54 PM
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Romain Honorio, Claudie Doums, Mathieu Molet. Worker Size Diversity Has No Effect on Overwintering Success under Natural Conditions in the Ant Temnothorax nylanderi. Insects, MDPI, 2021, 12 (5), pp.379. ⟨10.3390/insects12050379⟩. ⟨hal-03215778⟩

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