Researchers discovered how some species that successfully invade large extensions of land have an unusual way of doing so: they cooperate with other colonies to form a supercolony. Researchers alert that a plague of this type of ant could turn into a global problem. The research, the first of its kind, has been published in the journal PLoS ONE.
Ants are excellent invaders: five of the one hundred most invasive species in the world are ants. While common ant colonies compete with neighbouring colonies for resources and territory, invasive ants abandon all aggressiveness between colonies and work together to form enormous supercolonies consisting in thousands of interconnected nests.
However, the origin of these species' characteristic traits which provide them with their extraordinary invasiveness is still a mystery for scientists, given that they only reveal their destructive potential following a long, inconspicuous lag phase. As a result, many fundamental questions about the origin of their invasive behavioural patterns are still unanswered: Are they originally present in the colonies, before they begin an invasion? When does this behaviour manifest itself? Are these traits the result of mutations in a small sector of the original population? Or do they develop when populations grow and adapt to a new habitat?
Researchers at la UAB and CREAF participated in the first large-scale interdisciplinary study on the behaviour, morphology, population genetics, chemical recognition and parasite load of the invasive ant species Lasius neglectus and its non-invasive sister species Lasius turcicus. Both species, in all probability, originated in Asia Minor and their common genetic origin was confirmed in 2004.
Lasius neglectus, identified for the first time in 1990, is currently expanding throughout Europe - it can now be found in more than 100 locations - and occupies large extensions of parks and gardens. These invasive ants eradicate most native ants and other insect populations, damage trees, and in many cases cause economic and social problems by invading people's homes. They are similar in appearance to the common black garden ant, but are smaller and lighter in colour and can work up to nine times faster than their common garden counterparts. The species proliferates in mild climates of Europe and Asia, but it is also the first type of ant that can invade colder areas which until had not been affected by more exotic plagues. The northern areas affected until now are Jena in Germany, Ghent in Belgium and Warsaw in Poland.
This study has been able to answer some of the questions on the biology of this invasive behaviour. One of the key behavioural elements of these ants consists in forming interconnected nests, with many queens mating within existing colonies instead of starting a new one. Scientists have been able to demonstrate that the conditions needed to develop this invasiveness are already found in original populations. The study also reveals that the invasiveness is only fully expressed once the ants have escaped their natural enemies, such as parasites and pathogens. This happens when they travel to remote areas where local enemies have not had time to adapt and respond to these newcomers. In addition, researchers detected the same biological traits of invasiveness in the sister species Lasius turcicus, but which until now have not manifested themselves.
This data implies that many of the more than 12,500 ant species known to man can become a serious problem if adequate measures are not taken. The study warns that invasive ant populations such as the Lasius neglectus can become a problem of global dimensions.
The research, published in the December edition of the scientific journal PLoS ONE was carried out by a team of twenty researchers, including Dr Xavier Espadaler, professor of the UAB Department of Animal Biology, Plant Biology and Ecology and researcher at the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF).
Octavi López Coronado | alfa
Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses
24.04.2017 | Indiana University
Two-dimensional melting of hard spheres experimentally unravelled after 60 years
24.04.2017 | University of Oxford
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.04.2017 | Life Sciences