Undertaking behavior in the leaf-cutting ant Atta colombica was studied in small experimental colonies in the laboratory. Undertakers are old and middle-aged workers of intermediate head width (most 1.5-2.5 mm) and comprise about 30% of the workers in the colony. Undertakers are not specialists: most perform a variety of in-nest tasks, including nest cleaning and fungus tending, and some are foragers. A small fraction of undertakers are "elites" that will repeatedly remove any corpses present in the nest, but most undertakers do not repeat even once within a thirty-minute trial. The responsiveness profile of colonies to corpses appears to be designed for rapid and reliable removal of corpses, and may be related to the cost of allowing corpses to remain in the nest.
Species 1: Hymenoptera Formicidae Atta colombica (leaf-cutting ant)
Keywords: division of labor, response thresholds
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