Saturday May 17, 2014
Ant-agonists Play Game of Thrones
A species of ant uses a gladiatorial tournament to determine which ant is to be queen.
The Indian Jumping Ant (Harpegnathos saltator) can replace the queen of the colony through a ritualistic fighting tournament. Typically, the role of an ant in a colony is determined during the larval stage. With the Indian Jumping Ant, the female workers can actually replace the queen if they are successful in a duel with other workers. When the colony's queen dies, the workers begin a dominance tournament, where the winners develop the reproductive capabilities of a queen. Dr. Clint Penick, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University, found that winners and losers of the duels experience changes in hormone levels that determine their new role in the colony.