College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

War of the Ants, Berkeley Style!

November 4, 2009

ant-fight2.jpg

Ants in Argentina swarm into supercolonies and use war tactics to fight each other! Weapons of choice: chemicals which mark friend from foe. Evolutionary biologist Neil Tsutsui, UC Berkeley associate professor of environmental science, policy and management has discovered that Ants engage in inter-colony warfare to prevent overpopulation. Makes you wonder what our world might be like if we were so genetically similar that chemicals could only distinguish an enemy from a friend.

"Almost all living organisms use chemical recognition cues to some degree, but it is particularly common among ants and other insects," said evolutionary biologist Neil Tsutsui, UC Berkeley associate professor of environmental science, policy and management and the study's principal investigator. "Surprisingly, it wasn't until this work that the specific chemicals used by Argentine ants to identify each other were isolated and tested." Native to South America, the Argentine ant has taken hold in numerous countries worldwide, including Australia, Japan and the United States. In California, the ants are pervasive, pushing out native ant species and wreaking ecological havoc along the way. The Argentine ant has been blamed for exacerbating problems with some agricultural crops in the state, and for the decline of the coast horned lizard, which feeds exclusively upon the native ant species decimated by the invader."

To read more about these ants click here -> http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2009/10/27_ants.shtml

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