Thursday, 13 April 2017

Ante-Dote?


There is a novel report that a species of ant from the Ivory coast that raids termite nests will 'rescue' injured attackers from their own colony in response to an emitted 'pheromone' (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/apr/12/injured-ants-get-rescued-after-sending-chemical-sos-researchers-find). The chemical signal presumably differs slightly from colony to colony and does not really trigger genuine altruism. The rescuers come after trapped or damaged attackers (they will respond to an ant that has had 2 of its legs cut off by the scientists!). It does appear that rescued individuals can be active again after recovery.  Damaged individuals from other colonies are treated as 'meat'. It seems most likely that this is a mechanism for maintaining the colony's stock of attackers for as long as possible (the more attackers, the more termites to process?). In some ways it is like the mechanism in worker Honey bees of not over-loading with nectar and pollen before flying back to the hive that maximises their longevity (and utility to the colony).

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