Brood: immature forms of an ant (eggs, larvae, and pupae).
Caste: class to which an adult ant belongs.
Community: a group of interacting species that live in the same area.
Queen: a female ant that lays eggs.
Superorganism: a group of organisms in which members depend on each other to complete tasks needed to live. Members are often highly specialized... more
Many animals survive by living in large communities. They rely on each other to survive and depend on cooperation among the community members.
Ants are great examples of how individuals in a group can work together to protect the survival of the community. How do they do this? Well, ants have specialized jobs or tasks within the colony. (Bee colonies are similar in that way.) What makes a large community so successful is its ability to work as a system.
Through research and games, you will learn how the different castes of leafcutter ant work together to provide for the colony.
However, not all ants will function the same way. The strategies that different species (even different leafcutter species) use to obtain the four requirements for survival—water, food, shelter, and space—can be different.
What You Need
Make sure to get the following from your teacher:
You will also need:
Think about what you know about ants and about the life of an ant.
Over the next three days you will be working in groups of 3-4 to research the caste system of the leafcutter ant and how they make sure they have the essentials of survival: water, food, shelter, and space.
Work cooperatively with your group and follow your teacher's directions. Be sure to record all of your work in your notebook. Each member of your group is accountable for participating and contributing to your research.
Always clean up materials at the end of the day, leaving them the way you found them.
While watching the video Leafcutter Ants in the Panama Rainforest you will take notes and record your data for the following items:
Play and analyze: Leafcutter Relay
As a class, you will complete the Leafcutter relay. Afterward, you will analyze the interactions of your group.
What would happen if something were to alter the leafcutter system?
What events might disrupt the ant colony and what effect would it have on the colony in the long run?
Repeat for the second article and for any information in "A Closer Look at Castes," which you read on Day 2.
Angelina Alameda is a graduate of Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.
Additional images via Wikimedia Commons. Foragers with guard ants by Geoff Gallice.
Angelina Alameda. (2014, September 08). Life of the Leafcutter. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved September 20, 2023 from https://askabiologist.asu.edu/experiments/leafcutter-ants
Angelina Alameda. "Life of the Leafcutter". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 08 September, 2014. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/experiments/leafcutter-ants
Angelina Alameda. "Life of the Leafcutter". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 08 Sep 2014. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 20 Sep 2023. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/experiments/leafcutter-ants