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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: Any Ant Can Be a Superant
5 January 2012 2:00 pm
In days of old were more ants bold? Among the 1100 species in the Pheidole ant genus today, most produce two castes: foragers and soldiers. But on very rare occasions, a small number of species generate so-called supersoldiers, ants with especially giant heads who bravely keep other ant species from invading their nests by blocking the entrances with their noggins and employing enhanced battle skills. Curious as to how these warriors develop, researchers examined the genomes of two Pheidole species that sometimes produce supersoldiers and identified the genetic machinery responsible for making this caste. When the researchers treated the larvae of these species with a growth hormone called methoprene, the larvae developed into supersoldiers. Then the researchers dabbed methoprene on the larvae of Pheidole species that don't usually make supersoldiers. The larvae developed huge heads and useless wings similar to those of supersoldiers, suggesting that environmental cues drive supersoldier development. Since all the ants in the genus seem to retain an ability to become supersoldiers, the militaristic adaptation must have evolved in a common ancestor but been repressed later by most species in the absence of these cues, the researchers report in Science today.
See more ScienceShots.