Division of labor is a central feature in social insects, wherein, simple individuals come together in groups to perform tasks that could be quite complex. It is generally believed that individuals who perform a specific task are themselves simple, interchangeable units. However, the variances in the performances of these individual insects need to be explored in greater detail. In this study, individual specialization in the context of colony relocation was examined in the Indian ponerine ant Diacamma indicum. One ant termed the maximum tandem leader (Max TL) was found to have a key role. Max TL performed 24% of the adult relocation in the colony and recruited more tandem leaders than other leaders thereby contributing to the organization of the relocation. The Max TL's role in the relocation process was further examined by comparing control relocations with experiments in which the Max TL was removed during the relocation process. Even though all the colonies relocated successfully, the relocation dynamics was significantly altered in the absence of the Max TL. We find that a single individual, the Max TL, takes up roles of a performer, organizer and catalyst during the colony relocation process, which challenges the norm that all workers are equal.
Keywords: Diacamma; Division of labor; Emigration; Ponerine ant; Tandem running.
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