Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research


Ant Colony Size Predicts Division of Labour

27 August 2014

A new report published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, by CBER, ZSL and UEA student Henry Ferguson-Gow found that the division of labour within an ant colony depends on the colony size.

Whilst it commonly known that inside an ant colony, queens reproduce, while workers perform all other tasks. Henry's research looked at how the workers further divide these tasks between themselves and found that theory suggests that as colonies evolve to become larger, this division of labour becomes more complex.

Henry tested this hypothesis in Attine ants, a neotropical group that contains the well-known leafcutter ants and found a strong link between colony size and both reproductive and non-reproductive division of labour. This supports the idea that colony size is a key factor influencing the evolution of complex division of labour.

The full paper can be read here:

 doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1411 Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 22 October 2014 vol. 281 no. 1793 20141411