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 Bolstering fat cells offers potential new leukemia treatment
17.10.2017 | McMaster University

nachricht Ocean atmosphere rife with microbes
17.10.2017 | King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ocean atmosphere rife with microbes

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Neutrons observe vitamin B6-dependent enzyme activity useful for drug development

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA finds newly formed tropical storm lan over open waters

17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>