[ExI] For Spike: Ant slaves' murderous rebellions

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Fri Apr 3 04:28:57 UTC 2009


Ant slaves' murderous rebellions
Cory Doctorow

>From last month's journal Evolution, a fascinating tale of slave
rebellion among ants kidnapped by other ant species and forced to work
for the rival colony.

When these youngsters mature, they take on the odour of their
abductors and become the servants of the enslaving queen. They take
over the jobs of maintaining the colony and caring for its larvae even
though they are from another species; they even take part in raids
themselves. But like all slave-traders, P.americanus faces rebellions.

Some of its victims (ants from the genus Temnothorax) strike back with
murderous larvae. Alexandra Achenbach and Susanne Foitzik from Ludwig
Maximillians Universty in Munich found that some of the kidnapped
workers don't bow to the whims of their new queen. Once they have
matured, they start killing the pupae of their captors, destroying as
many as two-thirds of the colony's brood...

Two-thirds of pupae died before they hatched. The mortality rate was
even higher (83%) for pupae containing queens, but very low (3%) for
those containing males. The duo saw that the captives were
deliberately killing the healthy pupae. In about 30% of cases, as in
the photo, the workers would gang up to literally pull the developing
ants apart. Another 53% of the pupae were killed by neglect, by
workers who moved them out of the nest chamber.

These murders were solely the acts of the slaves. No P.americanus
worker ever lifted a mandible against its own pupae. Nor are the
deaths a reflection of a generally poor standard of care on the part
of Temnothorax. In their own colonies, the majority of pupae hatched,
with just 3-10% dying before that happened.


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