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Energetics of locomotion and load carriage in the nectar feeding ant, Camponotus rufipes


To investigate if there is an energetic constraint influencing a nectar feeding ant’s decision to come back to the nest with partial loads, the energetic costs of running and carrying a load in the ant Camponotus rufipes are measured. Metabolic rates of individuals are measured in a running tube respirometer while they are unladen and laden at 25 °C. Workers voluntarily collect a load of 6 µL of a 30 % sucrose solution (mass = 6.8 mg), which results in an internal load of about 50% of the ant mass and is close to a full load for ants within this size range. The gross cost of unladen running is 264 J kg-1 m-1, while that of laden running is 225 J kg-1 m-1. The mass used to calculate the cost of laden running includes body mass of ant and load carried. Load carriage cost in C. rufipes foragers is calculated to be about 60% as much as body carriage per unit mass. Internal load carriage in C. rufipes is energetically cheaper compared with external carriage in other ant species. Such low carriage costs make it unlikely that the collection of partial crop loads in C. rufipes foragers is based on a minimization of foraging costs, as suggested for honeybees.

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