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Data from: Shear adhesive performance of leaf-cutting ant workers (Atta cephalotes)

Cite this dataset

Stark, Alyssa Y.; Davis, Hayden R.; Harrison., William K. (2019). Data from: Shear adhesive performance of leaf-cutting ant workers (Atta cephalotes) [Dataset]. Dryad.


Wingless arboreal ants must resist the force of gravity while traversing substrates in their environment. For leaf-cutting ants like Atta cephalotes, foraging may also include a ca. 30 m vertical descent while carrying a load 1 – 6 times their body mass. We hypothesized that heavier and larger ants would carry heavier and larger loads, and that adhesive performance would positively correlate with load mass. We found no relationship between ant mass, body length, head width, or adhesive performance and the load size an ant carried. In addition to workers carrying vegetative loads (most often leaves), workers in an active foraging trail also include smaller workers riding on the leaves carried by larger workers, and large major workers, providing protection from aerial and ground attacks (Soldiers), respectively. Despite varying functional roles, all foraging ants require secure attachment to the substrate. We measured shear adhesive performance of each foraging role and found that Soldiers produced the highest shear adhesive forces. However, when controlling for tarsal pad area, we found that ants carrying loads have higher shear adhesive performance per unit area than those riding on leaves, and that Soldiers have the lowest shear adhesive performance per unit area. This suggests that while leaf choice does not appear to be dictated by size, mass, or shear adhesive performance of individual ants, overall, ants who carry leaves adhere more strongly given their pad size than those who do not.

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