Found a parasite that gives insects "eternal youth"

Scientists are now aware of the existence14,000 ant species and most of them are closely monitored. For three years, German scientists have observed several colonies of ants of the species Temnothorax nylanderi, which, it would seem, lead the most ordinary life. In their huge groups there is an ant queen and workers who are engaged in the creation and development of the anthill. However, very interesting phenomena occur in their colonies from time to time - sometimes ants bring food contaminated with parasites, after which some individuals begin to get younger and lead a carefree life. However, for "eternal youth" they subsequently pay with their lives. Let's find out what kind of parasites ant food is infected with, what happens to them and why is all this needed at all?

Ant of the species Temnothorax nylanderi

The most unusual parasites in the world

Ant food turns out to be infected with tapewormsworms of the species Anomotaenia brevis. The researchers did not tell exactly how this happens, but after entering the intestines of ants (yes, they also have it), the parasites give their “owners” a beautiful appearance. Infected insects cease to perform their work tasks and receive maximum attention from their relatives: they are carefully looked after and can even be transferred from place to place. Scientists have noticed that sometimes zombie ants get more attention than the queen ant. Unfortunately, why infected individuals suddenly become everyone's favorites is still unknown to scientists. Most likely, they emit special odors and attract attention with a soft yellowish body.

Anomotaenia brevis parasite inside an ant

Lifespan of Temnothorax antsnylanderi is only a few months old. However, infected individuals lived much longer than their relatives. Scientists have come to the conclusion that such ants are able to set unimaginable records and stay alive for as long as 20 years, just like their queen. Infected individuals themselves become parasites, because they greatly interfere with the life of their colony and can even cause its death. The fact is that in pleasing the infected individual, other worker ants spend energy that could be spent on improving the anthill. In addition, the queen begins to receive less attention, and her health directly affects the anthill.

Appearance of Temnothorax nylanderi

Maybe, I went too far with the expression "eternal youth." But, in my opinion, from the point of view of ants, 20 years is an eternity.

Spread of parasites

But why are tapeworms so generous andprovide ants with youth and a luxurious life? It turned out that parasites have little interest in ants - their main task is to get into the bodies of birds, where they can lay eggs. The larvae fall back to the ground along with feces and from there again penetrate into anthills - such is the cycle of parasites. To get into the digestive system of birds, ants use ants. They give them a "juicy" appearance so that birds are more likely to pay attention to them. Infected ants are more at risk of becoming prey because they lead a relaxed lifestyle.

The main target of Anomotaenia brevis is not ants, but birds.

This discovery proves how muchinteresting events happening right under our feet. Ants of the species Temnothorax nylanderi live not only in Germany: they can be found in France, Sweden and even Russia. They can be recognized by the yellowish-brown color of the body, no more than 3 millimeters long. Despite their small size, these insects are very aggressive and attack and sting the enemy when danger arises. Around July, winged males and females appear in the colonies, the courtship flight of which takes place in early August. Earlier I already talked about this phenomenon - once a swarm of flying ants was visible even from space.

Ants Temnothorax nylanderi on video

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Regular readers of our site for sureunderstand how amazing creatures ants are. For example, in the world there are ants of the species Harpegnathos saltator, which are able to change the size of their brain. They live in India, do not grow more than 10 millimeters and are capable of jumping up to 10 centimeters long. With all this, they are able to survive even after tragic situations. But what is this "tragedy" and why do these tiny creatures need the ability to change the size of their brain? I answered these questions in this article. Enjoy reading!