Research, Technology

Ants again struck scientists - they are able to give milk

Over the past hundred years, scientists have been activelystudied ant colonies, which made it possible to consider these insects well studied. The keen interest in them is quite understandable - where else in nature can one find such a well-coordinated collective work, in which hundreds of thousands or even millions of individuals take part? But despite the huge number of studies and observations carried out, the life of ants in colonies, as it turned out recently, was still not fully understood. The fact is that myrmecologists (scientists who study ants) rarely paid attention to insect pupae. What is the point of watching them if they do not move or even eat, but simply develop. But, as it turned out, this opinion was erroneous. In their next study, scientists at the Rockefeller University in New York, observing the pupae, saw something that struck them.

For more than 100 years, scientists have not noticed the ability of ants to secrete milk.

Ant pupae give milk

Ant development includes severalstages. First, the female lays eggs, from which larvae are obtained. Then the larvae develop into pupae, and adults are already obtained from them. During another study of an ant colony, scientists from Rockefeller University discovered a strange liquid, similar to milk, secreted by pupae. But why would they make it?

The strange feature of pupae was the first to be discoveredresearcher Orly Snir. It must be said that she had never participated in ant research before. Perhaps this gave her a fresh look at insect behaviors that had not yet been described in the scientific literature.

Instead of exploring jointactivity within the colony, where the pupae and larvae are constantly cared for, moved, or even stacked together by worker ants, Orly Snir suggested observing the pupae individually. To do this, it was necessary to provide them with optimal conditions so that they would remain alive for a long time. As a result, the team created a comfortable humidity and temperature.

Ant pupae produce so much milk that they themselves drown in them.

By observing the pupae, the scientists found that theyproduce liquid, and in large quantities. Many of them even drowned in their own "milk". However, it remained unclear - is the phenomenon caused by the fact that the pupae were removed from the colonies, or is this a normal phenomenon that scientists simply did not notice before?

Why do ants need milk?

To find out why the pupae began to givemilk, the scientists injected blue food coloring into the hole where the liquid came from. They were then placed back in the colony and watched over. As it turned out, the pupae continued to secrete a strange liquid. And adults drink it. This was evidenced by the blue color that spread through their intestines.

In addition, according to scientists in theirIn a study published in the journal Nature, ants often laid young larvae on pupae, which also fed on the excreted fluid. Accordingly, they also changed their color due to the dye. Further studies have shown that milk is secreted by the larvae of not all, but many species of ants. Thus, these insects begin to benefit the colony even at the stage of pupae.

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Why didn’t any of their myrmecologists do this beforenoticed? As we said above, initially the pupae were not given much attention. And with the development of technology, scientists began to pay more attention to the study of the body of ants and the work of their nervous system. For example, the ability of these insects to change the size of their brain was recently revealed.

Adults drink milk secreted by pupae

Composition of ant milk

According to Bert Helldobler, an employeeAt Arizona State University, who has been studying ants since the 1960s, he had long suspected that there might be something in pupae that attracted adults. It turned out that their nutrient fluid attracts them. But what is so valuable in it for ants? Chemical analysis has shown that milk contains all the essential amino acids, as well as several carbohydrates and some vitamins. They are important for both larvae and adults.

According to researchers, the exchange of nutrientssubstances between different developmental stages of ants may underlie the intense social lifestyle that these insects have developed over millions of years. That is, ants at different stages of their development depend on each other and, accordingly, take care of those who need it. That is, it turns out a kind of “social glue” that holds them together.

Finally, we note that this is not the onlydiscovery regarding ants in the last year. Not so long ago, we said that scientists have found out how ants prolong their lives several times when they become a queen.