Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

First Advisor

Michael D. Breed

Second Advisor

Rebecca Safran

Third Advisor

Samuel Flaxman


Successful foragers alter their behavior in response to variation in local conditions, resulting in reduction of foraging costs and maximization of resource gain. In eusocial colonies, individuals may adjust their own efforts to maximize the productivity of the colony as a whole. Maximization of colony productivity can be achieved through sub-maximal individual performance. Attine leaf-cutter ant foragers often cut leaf fragments shorter than the hind legs could allow, suggesting other factors contribute to load size determination. Several studies have shown reasons why leaf-cutter ants cut smaller loads than they could maximally carry. The effects of wind speed on leaf-cutter load size selection were examined in this study and showed conditions in which leaf-cutter foragers change their behavior to cut larger loads than normal. In response to wind treatments, foragers cut larger leaf loads and fewer minima workers hitchhiked on those leaves. This study highlights behavioral plasticity of leaf-cutter foragers in response to local conditions on the foraging trail, and it adds to our knowledge of resource allocation in central-place foraging systems.