Growth and survival of the superorganism: Ant colony macronutrient intake and investment. Ecology and evolution 10:7901-7915
In this study, we used two common ant species (Lasius niger and Lasius neoniger) to assay how they translate variation in the diet (both in composition and frequency) into growth. We measured colony development for over 8 months and measured several phenotypic traits of the worker caste, and examined whether forager preference corresponded with diet quality. Optimal colony growth was a balance between survival and growth, and each of these was maximized with different nutrient regimes. Interestingly, forager preference was not totally aligned with the diet that maximized colony growth. Our results highlight that: (a) organism and superorganism size are controlled by the same nutrients, and this may reflect a common molecular basis for size across life's organizational levels, (b) there are nutrient trade‐offs that are associated with life‐history trade‐offs, likely leading to selection for a balanced diet, and (c) the connection between the preference of foragers for different nutrients and how nutrient combinations affect colony success and demographics are complex and only beginning to be understood.