Evolutionary Ecology
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Wolfhard von Thienen

Research Project

Pheromone properties and collective behavior in different ant-species

Privately funded, PhD Student Wolfhard von Thienen, Advisors: D. Metzler, and V. Witte

Ant-colonies may consist of up to several hundreds of thousands individuals. These individuals work together in a highly coordinated way to maintain the colony over many generations. Numerous ant workers, build up complex nest-structures, search and supply food, take care of the offspring and defend the colony. They react adaptively on changing conditions in the environment over the course of a day and over seasons. The way they perform complex tasks is through self-organizing patterns of behavior. These patterns are frequently established by communication via pheromones, which are applied in varying concentrations into the environment, and which trigger different kinds of behavioral patterns in nestmates. The collective behaviour on colony-level finally arises from a fine-tuned information transfer. In my PhD-work I try to investigate how collective behavior depends on pheromone properties and concentrations in different ant species. Based on that, I develop models and run computer simulations of ant-colony-behavior.