We know that the only female in the nest, the queen can lay eggs. But every rule has exceptions: the ants Cerapachys biroi, living in south-east Asia, ordinary females may also lay eggs. And out of these eggs, despite the fact that they are infertile, can hatch offspring, and this, again, will only females. However, the concept of "normal female" to C. biroi hardly applicable: queens they do not.
However, these ants often observed strange behavior: when someone starts to lay eggs, the members of the colony may suddenly pounce on him to pull out of the nest and kill, and the penalty may take several hours or even days. If we consider that all the ants are genetically identical to each other, to explain it becomes even more difficult. Why would they destroy their own copies of the same genes?
How to write in Current Biology, researchers from Rockefeller University (USA), these ants are taking police action for a better functioning of the colony.
|Ant C. biroi (photo Jeffrey N. Gouldsmith).|
The reproductive cycle of C. biroi subject to strict routine of all individuals who can lay eggs, do it in the same time. Then, when the larvae would display, adult members of the colony will be engaged in community care for the offspring. Obviously, there are some social signals that "orchestrate" the community. But some ants do not understand these signals and continue to lay eggs, when the rest of the colonies were busy looking for food for the maturing larvae. In these individuals, as shown by anatomical analysis, too many egg rolls, and they usually go out of control in young ants that lay eggs are not engaged.
Either way, get rid of the ants who break ranks and reduces the efficiency of the colony as a whole. On competition between individuals of speech is not all directed to the good of the colony as a single organism (or state, if you will). And in this case the benefit of the colony is the coordinated work of all its members, and not to the maximum fecundity of each individual, as one might think.
The researchers compared the behavior of ants to the behavior of the immune system against cancer cells: in fact, in this case we are talking about the extermination of renegades, threatening the integrity of the body. That is, evolution again used the same in essence a decision at different levels of organization of life. However, for us, the ordinary people, the analogy between a colony of ants, and the body is still rather unusual.
Prepared according to the Rockefeller University.