Scientists are confused! Ants flee consanguineous marriage …

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If you look at the ground by the riverside in the Mediterranean, you can often see the sunlight reflected off the wing of a queen ant Cardiocondyla elegans (a species of ant in the genus Cardiocondyla). However, the queen is unlikely to fly or even walk. Instead, you’ll see the queen riding a worker ant.

You ask why? Because when mating season arrives, worker ants carry young queens from their nests to other nests on their backs.

From 2014 to 2019, researchers mapped the location of 175 Cardiocondyla ant colonies in southern France and recorded 453 examples of this transport behavior.

Choose homes far from loved ones

Although worker ants are very small, measuring only 2-3 millimeters in length, they carry young queens about 20 meters from their homes to deposit them in a nest. The interesting thing is that these nests that ants carry their females to mate with are specially selected. Experiments have revealed that these nests chosen by worker ants are genetically distant from them, i.e. less likely to be related.

Zoologist and co-author of the study, Dr. Jürgen Heinze said of all these results: “It’s pretty exciting. “This is the first example of assisted mate selection and assisted mating that we have in animals.”

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As with all sexually reproducing organisms, choosing the right mating partner is an important decision for Cardiocondyla. On the other hand, being closely related can have detrimental consequences for ants’ mating.

Inbreeding causes unhealthy colonies

A 2006 study found that prolonged inbreeding in another species of Cardiocondyla was wreaking havoc on unhealthy ant colonies. In the study, it was revealed that the life expectancy of ant queens mating with related ants for a long time was shortened and the mortality rate of their offspring increased.

Most ant species counter this with their “marriage flights”. But the queens of Cardiocondyla elegans need help. There is evidence that some young queens have moved from nest to nest and mated with males from more than one colony.

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No young queen comes home, spends the winter in an unknown house. In the spring, it is expelled from the nest because there can only be one laying queen in each nest. The expelled queens leave the nest and often restart the cycle by establishing their own colony.

There is only one mating season for these young queens, but it is more than enough. A queen can store and keep her wife’s sperm in a pocket called a “spermatheca” for the rest of her life.

In some species, only two sperm are sufficient to fertilize an egg. “It is more efficient than the 40 to 150 million sperm that humans use to perform a similar task,” say experts.

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All the power is no longer in the queen

Dr. Boris Baer says that although the Queen is admitted to having all the power, the research in question actually shows that this is not the case.

Dr. “It seems that the workers in these companies have taken the power they have and are making decisions about mating young queens,” Baer says.

While all of this research reveals some interesting information, it remains a great mystery; How do ants choose the colony where the young queens will mate? The answer to this question is not yet known.

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Dr. “Every time I find a new species of Cardiocondyla, I find that it has a different mating system, a different colony structure, and different dispersal patterns,” explains Heinze.

Scientists are confused Ants flee consanguineous marriage ...

They can shrink and enlarge their brains!

On the other hand, there are different types of ants that surprise researchers. The way ants, which are very intelligent, live and what they can do with their strength beyond their size is astounding. We have talked about Cardiocondyla elegans choosing unrelated ants to mate.

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Another interesting piece of information comes from the Indian jumping ant, known in Latin as the saltator Harpegnathos. Listed by scientist Thomas C. Jerdon in 1851, these 2.5cm tall ants live in wooded areas in India, can jump up to 10cm tall and defeat predators twice their size. Finally, it turned out that these ants could shrink their brains and then enlarge them again to reproduce.

A study, the results of which were published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, showed that Indian female jumping ants were able to shrink their brains by about 20-25% in a matter of weeks and then make them bigger. again. The Indian jumping ant was the first insect species discovered to have the ability to increase and decrease brain size.

But more importantly, the underlying reason for the change in the brain size of Indian jumping ants … According to the scientists who conducted the study, the female ants do so in preparation for breeding.

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