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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
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...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
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...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Ladybugs Eavesdrop on Ants
7 August 2012 5:00 pm
The enemy of my enemy is my friend—that's the strategy ladybugs rely on to protect their offspring and themselves from ants. Ladybugs prefer laying eggs in areas rich in prey, such as the green coffee scale insect (Coccus viridis). However, tree-nesting Azteca instabilis ants, which farm the scale insects to collect their sweet honeydew, routinely assault ladybugs and their eggs (as seen in this picture). To figure out how ladybugs overcome this challenge, scientists collected ladybugs, ants, scale insects, and phorid flies from an organic coffee plantation in Mexico and placed them in an olfactometer, an instrument that measures odors. Ants release a specific alert pheromone when the flies attack that renders the ants motionless for up to 2 hours, since the parasites go after motion. The researchers found that female ladybugs, especially pregnant ones, eavesdrop on these chemical alarms and hunt for areas rich in scale insects during the ensuing lulls in ant activity, findings that will be detailed in a future issue of Ecology and Evolution. This is the first known time a cascade of interactions between multiple species of insects was triggered by ant pheromones, the team reports, a complex web of intrigue that may be common in nature.
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