Blaine J. Cole, 
Ph.D., Princeton University 

Office:  S&R II  321G 
Phone: (713) 743-2679


For the Pogonomyrmex Project, including reprints 

For reprints of other papers.  

For the Biology of Behavior website

Schedule for lab meeting

My research interests are at the interface of evolution, ecology and behavior. One of the major problems in evolutionary biology concerns the evolution of social groups. My research is in several areas involving the evolution of social behavior including the behavioral and genetic prerequisites for group living and the functional consequences of living in groups. The organisms that I use for studies of social behavior are the social insects, particularly the ants. Ants provide thousands of social species, many of which can be kept under controlled laboratory conditions, and manipulated to answer questions about social behavior.

Evolutionary Ecology of Harvester Ants.   Diane Wiernasz and I are studying the population biology of a desert harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. We are combining a long-term ecological study of this population with detailed analysis of the ecology, genetics, and reproductive biology. Our long-term goal is to provide one of the most complete pictures of the population biology of an ant species.

Our studies of harvester ants fall into several broad areas involved with measuring the components of fitness and quantifying selection in this natural population.  For example the problem of reproductive allocation is influenced by the effects of body size on fitness, sex ratios and the relative values of growth and survival in colonies.  In one current project we are studying how the genetic makeup of colonies generates a link between the timing of activity and foraging success, colony growth and ultimately colony fitness.  

We combine field experiments with longitudinal field studies, laboratory behavioral observations and genetic analyses to gain a complete picture of this species.


Selected Publications from the Pogo Project

Wiernasz, D. C. and B. J. Cole. 1995. Spatial distribution of Pogonomyrmex occidentalis: recruitment, mortality and overdispersion. The Journal of Animal Ecology 64:519-527.

Abell, A., B.J. Cole, R. Reyes and D.C. Wiernasz. 1999. Sexual selection on body size and shape in the western harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. Evolution 53(2): 535-545.

Cole, B.J. and D.C. Wiernasz. 1999. The selective advantage of low relatedness: growth in the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. Science 285(5429): 491-493.

Wiernasz, D.C., A.K. Sater, A.J. Abell, and B.J. Cole.  2001. Male size, sperm transfer, and colony fitness in the western harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis.  Evolution 55:324-329.

Billick, I., D.C. Wiernasz and  B.J. Cole.  2001. Recruitment in the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis:  effects of experimental removal.  Oecologia 129: (2):228-233.

Cole, B.J. and D.C. Wiernasz.  2002.  Recruitment limitation and population density in the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis.  Ecology 83 (5):1433-1442.

D.C. Wiernasz and B.J. Cole 2003. Queen size mediates queen survival and colony fitness in harvester ants. Evolution 57 (9): 2179-2183.

D.C. Wiernasz, C. Perroni and Cole, B.J. 2004. Polyandry and fitness in the western harvester ant Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. Molecular Ecology 13: 1601-1606.

Diane C. Wiernasz, Jessica Hines, Dara G. Parker, Blaine J. Cole. 2008.  Mating for variety increases foraging activity in the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis.  Molecular Ecology 17:1137-1144.

Cole, B.J. 2008. The ecological setting of social evolution: the demography of ant populations. Chapter for: New frontiers in Behavioral Ecology–From Gene to Society. (J. Fewell, J. Gadau, eds.) Harvard Univ. Press. pp. 74-104.

Diane C. Wiernasz and Blaine J. Cole. 2009.  Dioecy and the evolution of sex ratios in ants.  Proceedings of the Royal Society, B.  209:2125-2132.

Blaine J. Cole, Adrian A. Smith, Zachary J. Huber, Diane C. Wiernasz. 2010. The structure of foraging activity in colonies of the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. Behavioral Ecology 21(2): 337-342.

Diane C. Wiernasz and Blaine J. Cole. 2010. Patriline shifting leads to apparent genetic caste determination in harvester ants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A.,107(29): 12958-12962.