Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Slavery behind Ant Raids: Attack Genes


In order to survive, the North American ant species Temnothorax Americans,  and closely related species to the ant, have famously been classified as "slave maker ants". These ants attack and enslave other ant species, integrating their offspring into their own colonies to survive. The captured "slave ants" are to raise the colonies young as well as to supply food. A study published in the Nature Group's journal Scientific Reports, identified two specific attack genes responsible for the ant raid attacks. Within the findings of the study, it was shown that the Temnothorax americanus, and their related species all have similar combat strategies. However, significant differences were found in the gene expressions of the ants during the raid. Different gene expression during the attack refers to different levels and approaches to the attack from the ant colonies while still having the same result. The results had suggested that the genetic differences between the colonies may be the result of random selection. Mutations were the cause of genetic differences between the related species, however the attacks still have the same combat strategies and results due to similar selective pressures within the colonies. Despite the genetic differences, the ant raiding species shared genes Acyl-CoA Delta (11) Dentaurase and Trypsin-7 cause attackers to emit chemical scents masking themselves during the attack as well all affecting the recognition potiental of the host colonies. 


Link to original study from Scientific Reports:

1 comment:

  1. I have read of similar traits of ants in the past with their abilities to identify enemy colonies based on scent. Its amazing that this species has the ability to enslave another to do all its dirty work. Having the ability to have another individual gather food saves a significant amount of energy you would assume. I wonder if there has ever been a slave rebellion inside a ant colony before.