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
Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells
22.02.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital
New insights into the information processing of motor neurons
22.02.2017 | Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
22.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
22.02.2017 | Health and Medicine
22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering