University of Oulu

Hakala, SM, Ittonen, M, Seppä, P, Helanterä, H. Limited dispersal and an unexpected aggression pattern in a native supercolonial ant. Ecol Evol. 2020; 10: 3671– 3685.

Limited dispersal and an unexpected aggression pattern in a native supercolonial ant

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Author: Hakala, Sanja M.1,2; Ittonen, Mats1,2,3; Seppä, Perttu1,2;
Organizations: 1Centre of Excellence in Biological Interactions, Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Research Programme, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
2Tvärminne Zoological Station, University of Helsinki, Hanko, Finland
3Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
4Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-06-25


Understanding how social groups function requires studies on how individuals move across the landscape and interact with each other. Ant supercolonies are extreme cooperative units that may consist of thousands of interconnected nests, and their individuals cooperate over large spatial scales. However, the inner structure of suggested supercolonial (or unicolonial) societies has rarely been extensively studied using both genetic and behavioral analyses. We describe a dense supercolony‐like aggregation of more than 1,300 nests of the ant Formica (Coptoformica ) pressilabris. We performed aggression assays and found that, while aggression levels were generally low, there was some aggression within the assumed supercolony. The occurrence of aggression increased with distance from the focal nest, in accordance with the genetically viscous population structure we observe by using 10 DNA microsatellite markers. However, the aggressive interactions do not follow any clear pattern that would allow specifying colony borders within the area. The genetic data indicate limited gene flow within and away from the supercolony. Our results show that a Formica supercolony is not necessarily a single unit but can be a more fluid mosaic of aggressive and amicable interactions instead, highlighting the need to study internest interactions in detail when describing supercolonies.

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Series: Ecology and evolution
ISSN: 2045-7758
ISSN-E: 2045-7758
ISSN-L: 2045-7758
Volume: 10
Issue: 8
Pages: 3671 - 3685
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.6154
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: Our work was funded by the Academy of Finland (#140990, #135970, #251337, #284666). SH was funded by Finnish Cultural Foundation and Alfred Kordelin Foundation; MI was funded by Betty Väänänen foundation, Societas Pro Fauna et Flora Fennica, Societas Biologica Fennica Vanamo, Suomen Hyönteistieteellinen Seura ry, Helsingin hyönteistieteellinen yhdistys, the Swedish Research Council, and the Bolin Centre for Climate Research; and HH was funded by Kone foundation.
Copyright information: © 2020 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.