By examining the worker castes in colonies of the ant, Pheidole morrisi, researchers have found new evidence that ants alter the organization of their colonies in different environments. Researchers Andrew Yang and colleagues from Duke University compared populations of P. morrisi in Florida, North Carolina and New York, and uncovered evidence supporting the idea that some insects adapt to their environment by adjusting body size and the relative proportion of different castes within their population.
Over the past 30 years, theoretical work on social organization has generated a number of predictions about how the colonies of eusocial insects, like ants and bees, could adapt to different environments. Many ants have morphologically distinct "castes," such as workers and soldiers, that specialize in different tasks within the colony. One long-standing prediction is that the optimal proportion of these castes in a colony should vary as conditions in nature vary. To date, the only evidence that ant colonies can exhibit any flexibility in the relative numbers of workers and soldiers has been from studies that measure the response to short-term environmental change that occurs within the normal life cycle of a colony.
In the new work, Yang and colleagues headed to the field to explore the question of whether caste structure can undergo similar changes on much larger spatial and temporal scale. The researchers found that the proportion of castes, as well as the ants body sizes, differed between populations of P. morrisi in three geographically distinct sites in the eastern United States. The differing population characteristics persisted when the ants were brought into the laboratory environment, suggesting that the differences between the populations reflects evolutionary divergence. Moreover, behavioral experiments – so-called "laboratory contests" between P. morrisi and a competitor species, the fire ant Solenopsis invicta – demonstrated that members of the soldier caste play an important role in colony defense. This role for soldiers, in combination with geographic differences in competitors, may explain the variation in the proportions of castes found between populations.
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
Listening in: Acoustic monitoring devices detect illegal hunting and logging
14.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.
How fires are changing the tundra’s face
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences
15.12.2017 | Life Sciences