Worker ants are known to play different roles, from scavengers to nurses who dress the wounds of injured companions to babysitters caring for their boss’s children. One breed takes on the royal family very hard: ants use their mandibles to drag a young queen to a distant nest so she can mate, according to new research.
Even the smallest – about 0.1 inches (2 to 3 millimeters) – Cardiocondyla elegans Ant workers have been observed carrying a queen up to 50 feet (15 meters) from their home nest and dumping them outside the nearby colony. (That’s about 5,500 times the body length of an ant, if people are 5 feet (1.5 meters) the same trip, they will cover 27,500 feet, or more than 8,300 m).
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“They need genetic diversity to survive,”; said lead author Mathilde Vidal, a doctoral student at the University of Regensburg in Germany. LiveScience “In other species, male ants can fly away. But here the wingless male and the queen will not use wings, neither will the queens leave the nest by themselves – it is up to the workers to carry them out.
Between 2014 and 2019, Vidal and her colleagues charted 175. Cardiocondyla elegans Ant colony in the south of France They observed how the worker ants held the queen by holding them tightly in their lower jaws and dragging them on their backs, releasing the queen only once outside the foreign nest.
After the queen was deposited outside, researchers found that she was allowed to enter the breeding room, which was located near the entrance to the nest and filled with males, all of which were confined to the chamber and accustomed to. Mating with closely related females The queen then mates with the male ants, keeping the sperm in a bag called the sperma for the rest of their life.
When the queen successfully mated, she spent the winter in a foreign nest before being booted in the spring to start her own colony. This behavior may be related to the ant’s strict rules regarding resource allocation. It may be in the colonial interest to care for foreign queens with their genes. But workers will not let the queen lay more than one resource-consuming egg in the nest for too long. The worker was often hostile, even a murderer to any queen who was above her welcome.
But the story of the Ant Queen doesn’t always end there. Researchers believe that some worker ants are bred from multiple nests, with males from all of them.
“In the nest with many new queens to be sent out, chances are workers will pick up alien queens from time to time,” Vidal said.
Among most ants species, overbreeding is often resisted through mating flights, a summer event in which winged males and females fly to mate. Large herd, but Cardiocondyla elegans‘The wingless males and their queen’s wings seem to be the majority of the traces. Hence, to ensure the healthy genes and relative disruption are carefully mixed in the indiscriminate riverbank habitat and prone to flooding, workers must assist the mandible.
“About 40% of colonies die every year,” said Vidal, referring to the species. “If they want to make sure their genes survive, they have to make sure their genes are spread well.”
In spite of these enthusiastic distribution efforts, the But hybrid breeding still plays a key role in the ants’ reproductive cycle. Genetic experiments found that two-thirds of the Cardiocondyla All between close relatives
“These queens tend to mate with about eight males in their lives, on average four being siblings,” Vidal said. But we don’t yet know how many colonies they are average. ”
The mystery remains, such as what causes the queen worker ants to cross the closer nest to benefit them further away, or any other statute that might governing workers’ decisions that they will leave the queen. Where The answers to these questions are still poorly understood; researchers will find a way to make ants exhibit lab-carrying behavior. Still, the research highlights some interesting and lesser-known facts about ant societies and all societies in general: parents are as much a parental tool as rulers, and they are disposed of. Quick when they outlast their benefits.
The researchers published their findings May 3 in the journal. Communications Biology
Originally published in Live Science.