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      Ants trapped for years in an old bunker; survival by cannibalism and eventual escape

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          Abstract

          Successful evacuation of a peculiar ‘colony’ of the wood ant Formica polyctena Först., for years trapped within an old bunker previously used for storing nuclear weapons (see Czechowski et al. 2016), is reported. Using an experimentally installed boardwalk, the imprisoned ants managed to get through the ventilation pipe to their maternal nest on the top of the bunker. In our previous report, we left open the question of how the ‘colony’ could survive seemingly without food. Here we show that the ‘colony’ in the bunker survived and grew thanks to an influx of workers from the source nest above the bunker and mass consumption of corpses of the imprisoned nestmates.

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          Corpse Management in Social Insects

           Qian Sun,  Xuguo Zhou (2013)
          Undertaking behavior is an essential adaptation to social life that is critical for colony hygiene in enclosed nests. Social insects dispose of dead individuals in various fashions to prevent further contact between corpses and living members in a colony. Focusing on three groups of eusocial insects (bees, ants, and termites) in two phylogenetically distant orders (Hymenoptera and Isoptera), we review mechanisms of death recognition, convergent and divergent behavioral responses toward dead individuals, and undertaking task allocation from the perspective of division of labor. Distinctly different solutions (e.g., corpse removal, burial and cannibalism) have evolved, independently, in the holometabolous hymenopterans and hemimetabolous isopterans toward the same problem of corpse management. In addition, issues which can lead to a better understanding of the roles that undertaking behavior has played in the evolution of eusociality are discussed.
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            When Subterranean Termites Challenge the Rules of Fungal Epizootics

            Over the past 50 years, repeated attempts have been made to develop biological control technologies for use against economically important species of subterranean termites, focusing primarily on the use of the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium anisopliae. However, no successful field implementation of biological control has been reported. Most previous work has been conducted under the assumption that environmental conditions within termite nests would favor the growth and dispersion of entomopathogenic agents, resulting in an epizootic. Epizootics rely on the ability of the pathogenic microorganism to self-replicate and disperse among the host population. However, our study shows that due to multilevel disease resistance mechanisms, the incidence of an epizootic within a group of termites is unlikely. By exposing groups of 50 termites in planar arenas containing sand particles treated with a range of densities of an entomopathogenic fungus, we were able to quantify behavioral patterns as a function of the death ratios resulting from the fungal exposure. The inability of the fungal pathogen M. anisopliae to complete its life cycle within a Coptotermes formosanus (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae) group was mainly the result of cannibalism and the burial behavior of the nest mates, even when termite mortality reached up to 75%. Because a subterranean termite colony, as a superorganism, can prevent epizootics of M. anisopliae, the traditional concepts of epizootiology may not apply to this social insect when exposed to fungal pathogens, or other pathogen for which termites have evolved behavioral and physiological means of disrupting their life cycle.
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              Wood Ant Wars the Relationship Between Aggression and Predation in the Red Wood Ant (Formica Polyctena Forst.) by

               A.A. Mabelis (1978)
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Journal of Hymenoptera Research
                JHR
                Pensoft Publishers
                1314-2607
                1070-9428
                October 31 2019
                October 31 2019
                : 72
                : 177-184
                Article
                10.3897/jhr.72.38972
                © 2019

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