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 Unique genome architectures after fertilisation in single-cell embryos
30.03.2017 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

nachricht Transport of molecular motors into cilia
28.03.2017 | Aarhus University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

'On-off switch' brings researchers a step closer to potential HIV vaccine

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Penn studies find promise for innovations in liquid biopsies

30.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

An LED-based device for imaging radiation induced skin damage

30.03.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>