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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
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...
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,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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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.