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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Marked for Death
15 June 2012 11:35 am
In any colony of the ant Cardiocondyla obscurior, there's only one ergatoid—a dominant, wingless, adult male—and he's a vicious dictator. Researchers have previously shown that the reigning ergatoid will smear secretions on any adult wingless male that enters the nest, targeting him for death by worker ants. But new observations reveal that the ergatoid's aggression doesn't stop there. Researchers have found that adult ergatoids can sense when an unhatched pupae contains a wingless male, rather than a female or worker ant. They'll spend more time near that pupae, and initiate a fight—similar to the one shown here—soon after the ant hatches. Targeting newborns pays off: in fights between adult and newly emerged ergatoids, the adult won every fight. But if the younger ant was 2 days old, with its outer layers beginning to harden, it had a 14% chance of winning, and in 43% of these fights, both ants perished, rather than just the youngster. The team additionally showed that chemical signatures of ergatoid pupae and hatchlings are distinct from other classes of ants in the colony, explaining how adults can pick out which newborns to fight. The study, published today in BMC Ecology, explains one way that the balance of the colony is maintained to maximize the number of worker ants and females that keep the population large and functioning.
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