Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Strange undertakings: ant queens bury dead to prevent disease

13.10.2017

Ant queens may bury other queens – a task normally performed by workers – to avoid infection when co-founding a new colony, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

Researchers at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria found that in cases where two ant-queens founded a colony together and one of the queens died before the first workers arrived, the surviving queen performed “undertaking behaviors” – behaviors directed at dead individuals, such as biting and burying the corpse – possibly to prevent pathogen transmission. The authors found that biting and burial was associated with a seven-fold reduction in the odds of a queen dying.


Founding queen with co-founder

Christopher Pull


Newly collected queens after the mating flight, which were then marked with paint en mass to identify them in experiment

Christopher Pull

Christopher Pull, corresponding author of the study said: “Ant queens usually focus on reproduction and do not engage in any risky or dangerous tasks. That’s why we were surprised to find that while ant queens do not avoid founding new colonies with other, sick queens – due mainly to competition for suitable nest sites – they perform undertaking behaviors that may have an impact on their survival. We found that queens that perform these behaviors are actually less likely to contract infections from dead co-founders and are less likely to die compared to those that do not perform undertaking.”

Christopher Pull added: “Most previous research on how ant queens fight disease during colony foundation has focused on their immunological responses after infection has occurred. We set out to investigate how queens behave to prevent contracting infections in the first place. Avoiding infection is important for ant queens because they live solely on the breakdown of fat and muscle until their first workers arrive. Having to expend resources on fighting an infection could affect their reproductive success and the success of the overall colony.”

... more about:
»BMC »Evolutionary »ants »colonies »fungal spores

Investigating the behavior of queens of the black garden ant – 18% of which co-found colonies, usually in pairs – the authors found that if two queens shared a closed nest with only one chamber and one of them died, 74% of surviving queens would bite the dead queen to dismantle it and 67% would then bury the pieces. If two co-founding queens shared an open nest with more than one chamber, 78% of surviving queens would remove the dead queen from the nesting chamber, while most of the remaining 22% of queens would bite and bury the corpse.

The authors found that while biting and burial was associated with increased chances of survival, the removal of a dead queen from the nest had no statistically significant effect on mortality. While this may be due to a lack of statistical power because the number of queens not performing the behavior was low, a possible explanation may be that the ants still interacted with the corpses after removal and subsequently became infected, according to the authors.

To investigate how pathogen exposure may affect an ant queen’s choice to co-found colonies and how ant queens might limit disease transmission from infected co-founders, the researchers performed two experiments. In the first experiment, healthy queens could choose to nest alone, with a queen that had been exposed to a fungal pathogen, or with a sham-treated queen (20 ants per study group). The researchers exposed queens to fungal pathogens by pipetting a liquid containing fungal spores to the ants’ thoraxes. Sham-exposed ants were treated with a liquid that did not contain fungal spores. The authors found that on average, 65% of queens chose to co-found, and that pathogen exposure did not affect co-founding choice; queens did not avoid co-founding with other, infected queens.

In the second experiment, when a pathogen-exposed queen died, a sham-exposed queen was killed and presented to a surviving queen to test if surviving queens reacted differently to a co-founder that had died from the pathogen and a sham-exposed co-founder. The authors observed no difference: undertaking behaviors were performed towards both.

Christopher Pull said: “This study expands our view about the challenges facing colony-founding ant queens, and how those challenges shape the evolution of queen behavior, which appears to be far more complex than previously thought. The simplistic view of the founding queen, waiting patiently for her workers to emerge so she can assume the role of egg-producer, is clearly not a comprehensive picture. Understanding how queens achieve flexibility is a possible avenue for exciting future research.”

Research article:
Co-founding ant queens prevent disease by performing prophylactic undertaking behaviour Pull and Cremer. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2017
DOI: 10.1186/s40359-017-0201-4
After the embargo lifts, the article will be available here: https://bmcevolbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40359-017-0201-4
Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BMC's open access policy.

BMC Evolutionary Biology
BMC Evolutionary Biology is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on all aspects of molecular and non-molecular evolution of all organisms, as well as phylogenetics and palaeontology.
A pioneer of open access publishing, BMC has an evolving portfolio of high quality peer-reviewed journals including broad interest titles such as BMC Biology and BMC Medicine, specialist journals such as Malaria Journal and Microbiome, and the BMC series. At BMC, research is always in progress. We are committed to continual innovation to better support the needs of our communities, ensuring the integrity of the research we publish, and championing the benefits of open research. BMC is part of Springer Nature, giving us greater opportunities to help authors connect and advance discoveries across the world.

IST Austria
The Institute of Science and Technology (IST Austria) is a PhD granting research institution located in Klosterneuburg, 18 km from the center of Vienna, Austria. Inaugurated in 2009, the Institute is dedicated to basic research in the natural and mathematical sciences. IST Austria employs professors on a tenure-track system, postdoctoral fellows, and doctoral students at its international graduate school. While dedicated to the principle of curiosity-driven research, the Institute owns the rights to all scientific discoveries and is committed to promote their use. The first president of IST Austria is Thomas A. Henzinger, a leading computer scientist and former professor at the University of California in Berkeley, USA, and the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. www.ist.ac.at

Weitere Informationen:

http://ist.ac.at/research-groups-pages/cremer-group/ Webpage of research group

Dr. Elisabeth Guggenberger | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: BMC Evolutionary ants colonies fungal spores

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Rising water temperatures could endanger the mating of many fish species
03.07.2020 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht Moss protein corrects genetic defects of other plants
03.07.2020 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

Im Focus: ILA Goes Digital – Automation & Production Technology for Adaptable Aircraft Production

Live event – July 1, 2020 - 11:00 to 11:45 (CET)
"Automation in Aerospace Industry @ Fraunhofer IFAM"

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM l Stade is presenting its forward-looking R&D portfolio for the first time at...

Im Focus: AI monitoring of laser welding processes - X-ray vision and eavesdropping ensure quality

With an X-ray experiment at the European Synchrotron ESRF in Grenoble (France), Empa researchers were able to demonstrate how well their real-time acoustic monitoring of laser weld seams works. With almost 90 percent reliability, they detected the formation of unwanted pores that impair the quality of weld seams. Thanks to a special evaluation method based on artificial intelligence (AI), the detection process is completed in just 70 milliseconds.

Laser welding is a process suitable for joining metals and thermoplastics. It has become particularly well established in highly automated production, for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rising water temperatures could endanger the mating of many fish species

03.07.2020 | Life Sciences

Risk of infection with COVID-19 from singing: First results of aerosol study with the Bavarian Radio Chorus

03.07.2020 | Studies and Analyses

Efficient, Economical and Aesthetic: Researchers Build Electrodes from Leaves

03.07.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>