Mauro Patricelli

ScienceShot: Living on the Commune, Ant Style

Communes aren't just for hippies. Researchers have discovered that colonies of the Latin American ant Pachycondyla inversa include two or more unrelated clans, which all share in the work and divide up the chores by family. Most mature ant colonies include only a single queen and her descendants. The P. inversa colonies that the scientists collected in Brazil, however, were composed of up to seven different queens and their offspring. The ant families specialized in particular tasks, such as tending the young—like the worker carrying eggs in the image above—and patrolling outside the nest, the team reports online today in Biology Letters. But the collective spirit goes only so far: The insects tended to hang out with other family members, and each bore a chemical signature of its family membership. The researchers say their findings suggest that divvying up the work can help unrelated individuals live in harmony. Groovy.

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Posted in Plants & Animals