[ExI] Ants for spike!

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Tue Nov 10 00:47:25 UTC 2009

2009/11/10 MB <mbb386 at main.nc.us>:
> http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/antssavematestrappedinsand
> Helpful acts, such as grooming or foster parenting, are common throughout the animal
> kingdom, but accounts of animals rescuing one another from danger are exceedingly
> rare, having been reported in the scientific literature only for dolphins, capuchin
> monkeys, and ants. New research shows that in the ant Cataglyphis cursor, the
> behavior is surprisingly sophisticated.
> Elise Nowbahari of the University of Paris North, Karen L. Hollis of Mount Holyoke
> College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, and two colleagues mimicked a natural
> situation-an ant restrained by collapsing sand and debris.
> But hidden beneath the sand was a nylon snare holding the ant firmly in place. The
> ant's nestmates consistently responded by digging around the victim and tugging at
> its limbs until they found the trap, then biting at the nylon strand. Potential
> rescuers did not, however, do the same for unrelated ants or insects of other
> species.
> The ants' ability to discern and then tackle the unfamiliar nylon snare demonstrates
> cognitive and behavioral complexity, unlike such simple actions as digging or limb
> pulling, which could arguably be elicited by a chemical distress signal. Nowbahari
> and Hollis distinguish rescue behavior from other cooperative acts in that both
> participants risk physical harm (rescuing ants could themselves be trapped under
> falling sand), with no possibility of reward for the rescuer aside from the benefits
> of kin selection.

How can this be kin selection when none of the ants involved is able to breed?

I would think natural selection in ants is at the level of the nest,
not the individual; the individuals are more like cells in the body.
Or is this wrong?


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