“Monsters of Science” is like a collection of stories. Beautiful tales told to live in all their freshness. But also in all its complexities. Arch to marvel at the treasures of the world. In this new episode, let’s move on to the little monster: the fire ant.
Ants, there are tens of thousands of species. They are present in practically all regions of the world. Some are less discreet than others. For some time there has been a lot of talk about a certain thing Tapinuma magnum. Kind of “Super Ant” An invasive plant that destroys crops and resists conventional treatments. In Africa ? In South America ? Not in French. in France. It started in Corsica. with theThe little monster has attacked the continent. Around the Mediterranean first because these ants look like a seashore, then in the southwest. They have now even reached the Pays de la Loire.
But the one we want to talk about today is one of her cousins. One called scholars Solenopsis Invicta which we call. It is also invasive. Especially aggressive. imagined. He’s biting his prey hard . Its goal is to hold onto it so it can sting poor victims multiple times with its wasp-like stinger. He injected her with one of the most irritating toxins in the world. A poison that kills quite a few small animals.
The stage is ready. However, what interests us here is the cognitive abilities of these ants. The capacities are all more surprising considering that they only have around 250,000. Compared to nearly 86 billion…
What happens when North America’s most venomous caterpillar attempts to walk through a pile of fire ants to reach its host plant? Megalopyge opercularis is consumed by a mass of Solenopsis invicta. pic.twitter.com/zmdF0Zuvae
– Scott B. Egan (@scottpegan) November 7, 2019
bridge over dangerous roof
in spite of that “inability”Fire ants show that they are capable of even heroic deeds that are still far from us. While they live in very dense communities, they know, for example, how to avoid … traffic jams!
They also know how to form rafts from their bodies to escape from. in itself to each other in a very coordinated way. Each ant in the process establishes contact with at least 14 of its neighbours.
All this by adopting group strategies, not individual ones.
and here the Note another collective method that these amazing ants have developed to overcome the obstacles that nature puts in their way. Or in this particular case, by the scientists who engaged in their experiments. They have already laid between our fire ants and a few pieces of sausage, a sticky surface. There could have been suicidal adventurous tendencies. The little animals would already have risked finding themselves trapped there.
Another great example of tool use in ants: fire ants “pave” sticky surfaces. I’ve seen signs of this behavior, but didn’t expect it to be so strong until my friend told me about it (Wang et al., 2021 Insect Science). pic.twitter.com/BaHBmlgtXM
– Horace Zeng (@horacezhl) March 14, 2022
But the fire ants had the show. They used the debris around – here, the pieces of glass available to them, in nature, it can also be pieces of leaves, branches, etc. — to. Coming to cover the adhesive surface.
Here a worker ant is “paving” in real time (I circle it white); You can see her pick up the gravel, carry it to the bar, put it down, and put it back in again. pic.twitter.com/zEIEBMmpT1
– Horace Zeng (@horacezhl) March 15, 2022
The researchers note the same game when it comes to these tiny animals crossing a surface covered in a powerful ant repellent. Go some wreckage as a group and voila. It shows once again that fire ants are not so stupid!
He points out in passing the role played by these insects in a process that scientists know as a biological disturbance. The process of rearranging the elements in the soil. Improve water permeability, as well as improve layer fertility.