The small ant Camponotus anderseni lives exclusively in twigs of the mangrove tree Sonneratia alba, and during inundation, the entrance hole is blocked with a soldier's head which effectively prevents flooding. The nests can be very crowded, with the ants and coccids filling up to 50% of the volume, and due to their metabolic activity, the conditions in the nests during inundation become hypercapnic and hypoxic. Each nest has only one entrance, and the opening is quite small (1.56 � 0.03 mm). The mean diameter of the galleries is 2.31 � 0.23 mm, independent of the thickness of the twig and length of the nest. During normal conditions with open nests, the oxygen depletion is substantial in the part of the nest most distant from the opening, and in a 120 mm long nest the oxygen concentration can be as low as 15.7%. During simulated inundation, in which the nest entrances were blocked, the oxygen concentration dropped to very low levels (<0.5%) after one hour. After opening the nest entrance, the oxygen concentration increased again, but for a 100 mm long nest it took nearly 20 minutes before the concentration was back to the normal depressed level. Mathematical modelling of the steady-state oxygen concentrations in the innermost part of the nests shows a lower O2 concentration than calculated. The time for equilibration of oxygen after inundation is longer than expected for small nests, presumably because the passive diffusion is obstructed by the nest contents. The "dilemma" faced by C. anderseni is to avoid drowning without suffering anoxia or hypercapnia, and they show a remarkable ability to adapt to the extreme conditions in the mangrove and exploit a niche where the density of other ants is insignificant. � 2008 Birkh�er Verlag.
|Number of pages
|Published - 2009