An empirically based simulation of group foraging in the harvesting ant, Messor pergandei

Nicola J R Plowes, Kai Ramsch, Martin Middendorf, Berthold Hoelldobler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


We present an empirically based group model of foraging interactions in Messor pergandei, the Sonoran desert harvesting ant. M. pergandei colonies send out daily foraging columns consisting of tens of thousands of individual ants. Each day, the directions of the columns may change depending on the resource availability and the neighbor interactions. If neighboring columns meet, ants fight, and subsequent foraging is suppressed. M. pergandei colonies face a general problem which is present in many systems: dynamic spatial partitioning in a constantly changing environment, while simultaneously minimizing negative competitive interactions with multiple neighbors.Our simulation model of a population of column foragers is spatially explicit and includes neighbor interactions. We study how different behavioral strategies influence resource exploitation and space use for different nest distributions and densities. Column foraging in M. pergandei is adapted to the spatial and temporal properties of their natural habitat. Resource and space use is maximized both at the colony and the population level by a model with a behavioral strategy including learning and fast forgetting rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-198
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - Jan 7 2014


  • Animal contests
  • Group model
  • Resource exploitation
  • Self-organized conflict
  • Territoriality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


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