Walter R. Tschinkel
Journal of Insect Science 11 (105), 1-30, (1 August 2011) https://doi.org/10.1673/031.011.10501
KEYWORDS: colony size, size-free shape, nest area, excavation, subterranean nests, worker number, Aphaenogaster floridan Aphaenogaster treatae, Aphaenogaster ashmeadi
The architecture of the subterranean nests of Aphaenogaster floridana Smith (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), A. treatae Forel and A. ashmeadi (Emery), was studied from plaster, wax, or metal casts. After structural features were quantified from digital images, the entombed ants were retrieved from the plaster by dissolution or wax casts by melting and counted. Nests of all three species were rather simple, small and vertical, with horizontal chambers connected by vertical shafts. Shafts descending to lower chambers tended to arise from chamber edges, whereas those connecting to a chamber above tended to arise from chamber centers. A. floridana had the largest nests and colonies, and multiple shafts commonly connected upper chambers, a feature lacking in the other two species. In A. floridana nests a higher proportion of chamber area and greater spacing between chambers occurred in the deeper parts of the nest, regardless of nest size. The other two species showed no vertical differentiation of any size-free measure at any nest size. In all three species, nest size increased more slowly than the worker population, so crowding was greater in large colonies than in small, in contrast to the situation in three other ant species for which data were available. An appendix with stereo images of all casts is provided.