Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


The Great Chinese Wall of Ants


Freiburg ecologists discover a new species of wasp that protects its offspring with dead ants

A German-Chinese research team has discovered a wasp with a unique nest-building strategy in the forests of southeast China:

The “bone-house wasp” / Source: Michael Staab

The newly discovered wasp shuts off its nest with a chamber full of dead ants.

Source: Merten Ehmig

The “bone-house wasp” shuts off its nest with a chamber full of dead ants in order to protect its offspring from enemies, as shown by Michael Staab and Prof. Dr. Alexandra-Maria Klein from the Institute of Earth and Environmental Sciences of the University of Freiburg as well as scientists from the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

No other such strategy has ever been discovered before in the entire animal kingdom. “When I first saw one of these ant-filled chambers, I thought immediately of the ancient Great Wall of China. Just like the Great Wall protected the Chinese Empire against attacks from raiding nomad tribes, the ant wall protects the offspring of this newly described wasp species from enemies,” recounts Staab. The scientists published their findings in the international journal PLOS ONE.

The new species with the scientific name Deuteragenia ossarium belongs to the family of spider wasps. In most species of this family, each of the females builds her own nest consisting of several cells. Each cell is filled with a single spider that has previously been paralyzed by a sting and on which the larva feeds.

The same is also true of the newly discovered “bone-house wasp,” which in contrast to all other known spider wasp species does not leave the last cell empty but fills it with dead ants.

The scientists conducted experiments demonstrating that the ant wall is a very effective means of protecting the nest. The offspring of the “bone-house wasp” are attacked far less frequently than those of other wasps from the same ecosystem. The researchers assume that the unique ant wall gives the nest a smell similar to the nest of a well-fortified ant species, thus scaring off potential enemies.

The precise defense mechanism is still unclear and is the subject of current research. “The discovery of a new species raises new questions. We want to understand why biodiversity is important for a functioning ecosystem,” says Klein. The research group “Biodiversity-Ecosystem Functioning (BEF) China,” which conducted the research, is funded by the German Research Foundation.

More information on the DFG research group “BEF China”:

Melanie Hübner | University of Freiburg
Further information:

Further reports about: Chinese Conservation ants bone-house wasp ecosystem females species

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New study reveals what's behind a tarantula's blue hue
01.12.2015 | University of California - San Diego

nachricht Tracing a path toward neuronal cell death
01.12.2015 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: How do Landslides control the weathering of rocks?

Chemical weathering in mountains depends on the process of erosion.

Chemical weathering of rocks over geological time scales is an important control on the stability of the climate. This weathering is, in turn, highly dependent...

Im Focus: How Cells in the Developing Ear ‘Practice’ Hearing

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular chain of events that enables the cells to make “sounds” on their own, essentially “practicing” their ability to process sounds in the world around them.

The researchers, who describe their experiments in the Dec. 3 edition of the journal Cell, show how hair cells in the inner ear can be activated in the absence...

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

European Geosciences Union meeting: Media registration now open (EGU 2016 media advisory 1)

01.12.2015 | Event News

Urbanisation and migration from rural areas challenging agriculture in Eastern Europe

30.11.2015 | Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Latest News

USGS projects large loss of Alaska permafrost by 2100

01.12.2015 | Earth Sciences

New study reveals what's behind a tarantula's blue hue

01.12.2015 | Life Sciences

Climate Can Grind Mountains Faster Than They Can Be Rebuilt

01.12.2015 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>