Queen ants learn to be single mothers | Sciences

If there is an animal that knows hierarchy, it is the ant. In all of their more than 13,000 species, these small, social insects are organized by a division of tasks: queens lay eggs, males fertilize, and workers — sterile, wingless females — are responsible for caring for the offspring. Search for food and build a nest. When it is established…

Subscribe to continue reading

Read without limits

If there is an animal that knows hierarchy, it is the ant. In all of their more than 13,000 species, these small, social insects are organized by a division of tasks: queens lay eggs, males fertilize, and workers — sterile, wingless females — are responsible for caring for the offspring. Search for food and build a nest. When a colony is established, the king takes custody of his first daughters. The leader then specializes in laying eggs and never assumes caretaker duties again. Or so he thought.

New research has discovered that if the workers disappear, and since the males usually die after breeding, the queen learns to be a single mother and returns to caring for her children on her own. discovery, Published this Tuesday in the magazine Functional environment, Challenges the prevailing view that queen specialization is innate and irreversible.

“We expected queen specialization to be strong and not dependent on environmental conditions,” he explains. Roman Lebrecht, author of the study. A team of researchers from National Center for Scientific Research in FranceIt has now been proven, under the leadership of this biologist, that the work of the workers is the factor that motivates and conditions the queen to stop caring for the offspring and to pay attention to laying eggs.

See also  Convergencia, a social science journal, is in its 30th year, founded by teachers from FCPyS at UAEM

Traditionally, he adds, this division of labor – within the superorganism that is a colony – has been assumed as “something fixed.” Shem Cerdabio CSIC Department of Ethology and Biodiversity Conservation, who did not participate in the study. Investigation; However, it suggests that this specialization is “more flexible than usually assumed and can be reversed,” says Cerda. Lebrecht agrees. For his team, most surprising was the finding that specialized queens become unspecialized very quickly if faced with the absence of workers, even after several years of devoting themselves exclusively to egg-laying.

This discovery comes as a result of 17 experiments and more than 3,000 hours of video recordings using… Common garden ant (Lasius Niger). By isolating the queen, they were able to study the duration of care for eggs and larvae in different scenarios: with and without food, with and without young workers, and also by removing workers after 30 or 38 months. The most challenging part, Lebrecht explains, was being able to experimentally manipulate the presence of workers around queens that had not yet produced any, because when they were from different colonies they attacked each other. The author of the study explains: “The solution we found is to use very young workers, no more than 8 or 10 hours old.”

After analyzing the collected data, they found that the isolated queens regain non-reproductive behaviors, that is, they return to work caring for their offspring. They do this instantly, sometimes in less than 24 hours; At most, for up to three days after workers are absent. Once they have adopted the role of single mothers, it is enough to put two workers back to work for the queen to stop caring for the young and once again devote herself exclusively to egg production. Naturally, these workers must be able to do their job, because if the workers are nearby, but are prevented from carrying out their brood care duties, the queen does it for them. “Only the real presence of workers leads to behavior change,” Cerda adds. To confirm the results, they finally analyzed another species, the Temnothorax nilandri, Similar behaviors were found.

See also  UAEM Medical School Physically Active - El Sol de Cuernavaca

This discovery highlights the critical role of the social environment in the development of behaviors. Since very little is known about the emergence and maintenance of queen specialization, and the process of regulation, obtaining new information “may change our understanding of how the division of labor is organized and how it arose and evolved in the first place,” Lebrecht asserts. . Their discovery has the potential to shed light on other insect communities — including bumblebees, bumblebees, termites and wasps — which, like ant colonies, are highly specialized superorganisms.

You can follow Theme in Facebook, s And Instagramor sign up here to receive Our weekly newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *