Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ants create united Europe

16.04.2002


Argentine ants are a serious agricultural and domestic pest in Europe.
© Charles König


Cooperation is a better strategy than conflict for expat Argentine ants.
© Charles König


Invading insect empire stretches 6,000 kilometres.

An invading empire has conquered Europe. One super-colony of South American ants, with millions of nests and billions of individuals, stretches 6,000 kilometres around the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, researchers have found.

Every ant in the colony treats every other as its nest-mate - even though they may be quite unrelated. The nests have buried their differences to create the largest cooperative unit ever discovered, say Laurent Keller of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and his colleagues1.



"You can mix Spanish and Italian ants and there’s no aggression," says Keller. "We were extremely surprised to find this."

"This is really amazing and exciting," says entomologist Terrence McGlynn of the University of San Diego. The cooperative powers of Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) have made them a serious agricultural and domestic pest, and a threat to native species worldwide. But the scale of their super-colonies, and how they came about, was previously unknown, says McGlynn.

Other invasive ants, such as the troublesome fire ants of the southern United States, cooperate, although not on the same scale. "To understand how they do it is practically, as well as biologically, important," says geneticist Pekka Pamilo of the University of Oulu, Finland.

The Argentine ant has invaded every continent except Antarctica, and has reached islands including Hawaii and New Zealand, by hitchhiking with humans. Its arrival is bad news for the residents - it’s very hard to find native ants in invaded areas, says McGlynn.

In the long term, Keller suggests, chemicals could be devised that jam the ants’ communication systems so that they turn on one another.

Suspension of hostilities

Keller and his colleagues collected Argentine ants from the northwest corner of Italy, along the south coast of France, and around the Iberian peninsula, ending at the northwest corner of Spain.

In South America, ants from nests a few metres apart fight to the death. Most European ants showed no aggression towards each other, even when their homes were thousands of kilometres apart.

This suspension of hostilities allows nests to crowd together, the team speculates. Freed from the predators and parasites of their homeland, populations reach higher densities. Cooperation becomes a better strategy than conflict, even though the ants are not related, and so share no evolutionary interest in each other’s wellbeing.

Ants use chemical badges to recognize nest-mates. Keller speculates that after the ants arrived in Europe in the 1920s, they teamed up with unrelated ants that happened to share a badge in order to achieve domination.

Argentine ants have not quite achieved European unification, however. The researchers found that the nests they collected fell into two blocs that cooperated amongst themselves but showed each other no quarter. The second, smaller super-colony lives in Catalonia, Spain.

References

  1. Giraud, T., Pedersen, J.S. & Keller, L. Evolution of supercolonies: the Argentine ants of southern Europe. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 412, 708 - 712, (2002).

JOHN WHITFIELD | © Nature News Service

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Decoding the genome's cryptic language
27.02.2017 | University of California - San Diego

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

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”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

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...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New pop-up strategy inspired by cuts, not folds

27.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Sandia uses confined nanoparticles to improve hydrogen storage materials performance

27.02.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

Decoding the genome's cryptic language

27.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>