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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: 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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