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¡SOBRE México!: Student Opportunities for Biological Research in Mexico

¡SOBRE México!

Cortnea's Reseach

Network Mapping of Cephalotes goniodontus

The turtle ant, Cephalotes goniodontus, is arboreal and creates trails along tree branches and intertwined vines.

Pheromones are used to make and strengthen trails.


Very few field studies have investigated the behavior of these tree ants.

Study Questions: 

How does the network change over time?


Does the distance or repeatability of the nodes have the greatest impact on the network?




  • I worked with Deborah Gordon to map three turtle ant colonies in the forest.
  • The main network was mapped for each colony. The main road was evident by the intense traffic of ants.
  • The distance in centimeters was measured from node to node, and repeatability was determined for each one.
  • Some nodes were tagged with fish wire and tape to easily track the network day by day.

Repeatability: probability that the exact path is reinforced by each consecutive ant.
1: High repeatability; the road is on the same floor.
2: The path is repeatable, but the connection is between two different plants, such as crossing branches.
3: The route is possible, although the connection has many paths between the nodes, like a vine wrapped around a branch.
4: The road is very unlikely, as by a leaf.

For each main node, the surrounding nodes were also measured and recorded. This extended to at least five nodes of each main node.

The main trail was labeled: 1,2,3,4 ...
The extended nodes of the road main had a number and a letter. Added another letter for each extension.
(2A1, 2A1B1 ...)

Colony Tejón 1 and Tejón 2 are in Tejón trail.

Colony Turtle Hill is outside of Eje Centra.

I used data from Tejón1 to make the following maps.

Future studies:
I'll create maps for Tejón 2 and Turtle Hill colonies.

I will look for patterns during pruning to see if distance or repeatability seems to influence the pruning process.







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