Ana Sofia Ibarrarran-Viniegra

McGill University
Ph.D. candidate

Supervisor: Ehab Abouheif
Start: 2008-01-01
End: 2013-12-13


The potential role of plasticity in division of labour in advanced ant societies.
My work focuses on uncovering the processes underlying the division of labour in ant societies. My research has brought to the spotlight striking differences in the organization of division of labour in ants. While an age-related pattern of task allocation is valid for the honeybee, in ants the typical sequence of behavioural progression does not hold when behaviour is analyzed at the individual level. I discovered two clearly distinct behavioural groups which emerge from same-age individuals in a shared social context: the ‘go’ and the ‘no go’ ants. Surprisingly, go and no go ants have similar behavioural capacities and biogenic amine levels, suggesting that this striking inter-individual variability must be a consequence of their social environment. Generally, my research shows that inter-individual variability is an important mechanism which enhances robustness and resilience of the colony, fundamental features of division of labour; and could lead us to reassess the way we have traditionally thought about division of labour in insect societies.


social behaivour, division of labour, complex systems