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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: How Ants Avoid Eviction
18 October 2013 12:45 pm
For ant larvae and pupae, getting sick is a death sentence. When adult ants spot an infirm individual in their spotlessly clean nest, they simply chuck it out and leave it to die. This extreme “hygienic behavior,” as it’s technically called, is an effective way of containing disease outbreaks in crowded insect colonies. But some pupae have worked out a way to avoid nest eviction—by growing inside bug-proof cocoons and dodging disease, reports a study published this week in BMC Evolutionary Biology. Scientists have long wondered why in some ant species the pupae spin silk cocoons around their bodies, whereas in others the pupae are “naked.” In a few odd cases, ants can even swing both ways: In the same species, some pupae build cocoons, but others live happily without one. Or maybe not. When researchers infected different ant species (with cocooned, naked, or indecisive pupae) with a deadly fungus, the adults swiftly removed the diseased brood from the nest. However, cocooned pupae were often left behind, and even though they remained exposed to the fungus, they didn’t get sick. The authors conclude that cocoons act as shields against fungal invasion. It’s a win-win situation for the ants: The pupae don’t get sacrificed and the colony stays safe from an epidemic.