MSocial insects live in complex states that in many respect resemble a superorganism, able of highly sophisticated behaviour that is adjusted to the current situation, although there is not a global mind overlooking and orchestrating all the individuals. How does individual behaviour lead to social decision-making? To approach this question, the mechanisms of odour pattern recognition are investigated. How do leaf-cutting ants follow the trail, and how do carpenter ants recognise their nest-mates? How is this linked with the activation of olfactory receptor coding genes? It seems that the differences between individuals are important to make intelligence of the group emerge.
Speaker: Dr. Christoph Kleineidam, born in Upper Suebia, studied in Würzburg and already from early on became interested by the social life of insects. Together with Hölldobler and Tautz, he analysed the behavioural ecology of leaf-cutting ants and discovered during his Ph.D. time that the complex nests, where the ants cultivate fungi, show only low concentrations of carbon dioxide, which is achieved by a very sophisticated aeration system. Also the control of aggression, or the regulation of temperature in the nest is regulated in a complex manner by chemical signals. Thus, the ant state behaves as if it were a superorganism. After his Ph.D. in Würzburg, Kleineidam moved to Konstanz, where he works on the neurological base of these intelligent behavioural patterns and cooperates with the Galizia lab. In numerous, also popular talks and media broadcasts he is addressing the fascination of social intelligence in insects.