A CSU Dominguez Hills professor’s research proves that "thieving" ants belong to a distinct caste. His discovery helps scientists understand the evolution and occasional dissolution of colony boundaries among ants.

Thieving ants have specialized workers that infiltrate neighboring colonies to take food back to their own colony. The existence of this behavior was already known, but whether these thieves were a distinct caste from regular foraging workers was unknown.

A team led by Dr. Terry McGlynn, professor of biology, conducted experiments showing that these thieves behave in a fundamentally distinct manner and actively avoid interacting with other individual ants.

Collaborators on the project included students and professors at the University of Hawaii and the University of Otago, in New Zealand. The findings of this preliminary work form the basis for a more comprehensive investigation of the sociogenomics of the ant Ectatomma ruidum—a species whose origin remains mysterious.

Dr. McGlynn’s project has been accepted for publication in the journal Animal Behaviour. It received funding from the National Science Foundation, International Research Experiences for Students, the Tropical Ecology Mentorship Program of CSU Dominguez Hills, and CSU LSAMP.