Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Slavemaker Ants

Did you know that there are some species of ants that make other ant colonies their slaves? It's quite fascinating, actually. The Slavemaker ants require another colony to do the work for them in order to live. Scientists have done studies that show that if the Slavemaker ants have to fend for themselves, they will die of starvation, even if there is food made available for them. The Slavemaker ants take over a colony and make the workers of the hostage colony do everything for them, like gather food, feed the larvae and queen, and defend the colony from attack. They will even force the hostage ants to carry the Slavemaker ants around.

There are a few ways that the Slavemaker ants actually take over the colony. The most common method is for the Slavemaker ants to raid a colony and steal its eggs. The eggs are brought back to the Slavemaker colony and those eggs are raised to become the next generation of slaves.

Another method is for the existing Slavemaker queen to give birth to a new queen. That new queen follows her soldiers to the colony they are invading. In the heat of the battle, the new queen sneaks in and finds the host colony's queen. The new queen kills the host queen and then eats it. When the new queen eats the host queen, she gives off the host queen's pheromones and tricks the host workers into thinking that she is the old queen. The new queen had previously mated with males from the old colony, so she gives birth to new Slavemaker ants, which overrun the colony and the host ants don't have a chance.

There has been documentation from scientists of ants in slavery actually uprising against their oppressors. The ants in bondage go around killing the pupae of the Slavemaker ants while leaving their own pupae untouched. You can read more about ant slavery uprisings here. It's super interesting.

Who knew that ants could be so complex? It's pretty amazing. You can read some more about Slavemaker ants at this website. I love finding out information like this. It makes biology so interesting.

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