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Study ties kin selection to host-manipulating behavior in parasites
New research by Texas A&M University biologist Dr. Charles Criscione and collaborators in Canada shows that family ties and traits such as manipulation, sacrifice and selflessness are just as key to survival in parasitic organisms as they are in cognitive species like humans. In essence, when it comes to successful transmission, some parasites get by with a little help from their kin. (2020-03-10)

Research on soldier ants reveals that evolution can go in reverse
Turtle ant soldiers and their oddly-shaped heads suggest that evolution is not always a one-way street toward increasing specialization. (2020-03-09)

Melting properties determine biological functions of cuticular hydrocarbon layer of ants
The bodies of ants are covered with wax-like substances known as cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) that serve communication as well as protection against desiccation. While recognition of other ants requires the CHC layer to be not too solid, desiccation protection requires it to be as solid as possible. To resolve this conflict between the needs of communication and waterproofing, this layer is composed of CHCs with special physical properties, as biologists have now discovered. (2020-02-26)

Enigmatic small primate finally caught on film in Taita, Kenya
The Taita mountain dwarf galago was first reported in 2002 but no more signs of it were found for almost 20 years. (2020-02-17)

Sugar ants' preference for pee may reduce greenhouse gas emissions
An unlikely penchant for pee is putting a common sugar ant on the map, as new research from the University of South Australia shows their taste for urine could play a role in reducing greenhouse gases. (2020-02-06)

How plants are built to be strong and responsive
Researchers have solved the long-standing mystery of how plants control the arrangement of their cellulose fibres. (2020-02-06)

How ants get angry: Precise 'lock and key' process regulates aggression, acceptance
In a new study, scientists at Vanderbilt report definitive evidence of a mechanism within ants that is responsible for unlocking aggression. The research--the first to pinpoint this mechanism and its precise role in ant biology--reports a social characteristic which could help account for their evolutionary success. (2020-02-03)

Sanitary care by social ants shapes disease outcome
Sanitary care in ants to fight disease is known to improve the wellbeing of the colony, yet it has been unclear how social disease defense interferes with pathogen competition inside the individual host body. In their recent study published in Ecology Letters, Sylvia Cremer and her research group at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) revealed that collective care-giving has the power to bias the outcome of coinfections in fungus-exposed colony members. (2020-01-17)

Including irregular time intervals improves animal movement studies
Studies of animal movement and behavior--including those addressing disease spread and animal conservation--should monitor animals at both regular and irregular time points to improve understanding of animal movement behavior, according to a new study by Penn State statisticians. The study is the first to provide guidance about sampling regimes for this type of biological research. (2020-01-14)

Of ants and men: Ant behavior might mirror political polarization
Division of labor and political polarization may be driven by the same processes, say Princeton University computational biologists Chris Tokita and Corina Tarnita. They found that two forces -- ''social influence,'' the tendency of individuals to become similar to those they interact with, and ''interaction bias,'' which leads us to interact with others who are already like us -- are both necessary for division of labor and polarized social networks to emerge. (2020-01-08)

Bark beetles control pathogenic fungi
Pathogens can drive the evolution of social behaviour in insects. This is shown by researchers from Bern and Würzburg for ambrosia beetles. (2019-12-20)

Researchers discover how ant species uses abdomen for extra power during jumps
Researchers in the department of entomology at the University of Illinois have shown how a species of ant uses its abdomen to add speed to its jump, in a recent study published in Integrative Organismal Biology. The results indicate that moving their abdomens aids the ants to jump further, higher, and faster overall. This is particularly helpful to the ants as they try to navigate the detritus on a forest floor. (2019-12-18)

Leafcutter ants accelerate the cutting and transport of leaves during stormy weather
A study by researchers at the University of São Paulo's Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture (ESALQ-USP) in Brazil shows that leafcutter ants are capable of predicting adverse weather by sensing changes in atmospheric pressure. (2019-12-16)

Gardens can be havens for soil animals in towns and cities
The fifth edition of the Dutch Soil Animal Days saw earthworms almost grab top spot thanks to the wet autumn weather. But at the end of the day, woodlice once again emerged as the most-observed soil animal in Dutch gardens. Nearly 1000 'citizen scientists' sent in their observations this year. And a surprisingly high number of people tried to do something in return for the vital services these soil creatures provide for us. (2019-12-12)

Uncovering how endangered pangolins, or 'scaly anteaters,' digest food
The endangered Sunda pangolin, or 'scaly anteater,' is a widely trafficked mammal, prized in some cultures for its meat and scales. Little is known about these animals, and raising rescued pangolins is tricky. In the wild, they eat termites and ants, but diets provided in captivity often make them sick. Now, a study in ACS Omega reports that pangolins lack some common digestive enzymes, which could explain why some diets don't work well for them. (2019-12-11)

Azteca ant colonies move the same way leopards' spots form
What could Azteca ants in coffee farms in Mexico have in common with leopards' spots and zebras' stripes? (2019-12-11)

Fire ants' raft building skills react as fluid forces change
Fire ants build living rafts to survive floods and rainy seasons. Georgia Tech scientists are studying if a fire ant colony's ability to respond to changes in their environment during a flood is an instinctual behavior and how fluid forces make them respond. (2019-11-26)

16-million-year-old fossil shows springtails hitchhiking on winged termite
A newly reported, 16-million-year-old fossil is shedding light on how a group of tiny arthropods may have traversed the globe -- by hitchhiking. (2019-11-25)

Larger than life: Augmented ants
The first app of its kind allows users to interact with biodiversity research through augmented reality. (2019-11-12)

Epigenetic switch found that turns warrior ants into forager ants
In 2016, researchers observed that they could reprogram the behavior of the Florida carpenter ant Camponotus floridanus. This species has two distinct castes with nearly identical genetic makeup: smaller Minor workers who forage and nurse the ant brood and larger Major worker soldiers that defend the colony. On Nov. 12 in the journal Molecular Cell, the same group reports that ant castes are determined by epigenetic influences. (2019-11-12)

Penn team discovers epigenetic pathway that controls social behavior in carpenter ants
Researchers discovered that a protein called CoRest, a neural repressor that is also found in humans, plays a central role in determining the social behavior of ants. The study also revealed that worker ants called Majors, known as 'brawny' soldiers that protect colonies, can be reprogrammed to perform the foraging role -- generally reserved for their sisters, the Minor ants -- up to five days after they emerge as an adult ant. (2019-11-12)

Ant expert discovers newly emergent species in his backyard
Jack Longino is a global ant expert and has traveled the world documenting and discovering ant species. But for his latest discovery, he didn't need to go any farther than his own backyard. (2019-11-12)

Spiders and ants inspire a metallic structure that refuses to sink
University of Rochester researchers have created a metallic structure that is so hydrophobic, it refuses to sink - no matter how often it is forced into water or how much it is damaged or punctured. Possible applications include unsinkable ships and wearable flotation devices that will still float after being punctured. (2019-11-06)

Stuck in a Polish nuclear weapon bunker cannibal wood ants found the way home
Coming back to their 2016 study of a wood ant colony of workers trapped in a post-Soviet nuclear weapon bunker in Poland, a research team, led by Prof. Wojciech Czechowski from the Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, sought to determine how exactly the unexpected colony managed to survive for so long. As a result, their new paper, also published in the open-access Journal of Hymenoptera Research, reports cannibalism within the colony. (2019-11-04)

Ants: Jam-free traffic champions
Whether they occur on holiday routes or the daily commute, traffic jams affect cars as well as pedestrians. Scientists at the CNRS, Université Toulouse III - Paul Sabatier (France) and the University of Arizona (United States) have demonstrated that ant colonies, however, are spared these problems and circulate easily, even in the event of extremely dense traffic, thus ensuring consistent efficiency in their foraging. These findings appear in the 22 October 2019 edition of eLife. (2019-10-22)

New study reveals that crabs can solve and remember their way around a maze
A new Swansea University study has revealed how common shore crabs can navigate their way around a complex maze and can even remember the route in order to find food. (2019-10-22)

Ants fight plant diseases
New research from Aarhus University shows that ants inhibit at least 14 different plant diseases. The small insects secrete antibiotics from glands in the body. On their legs and body, they also host colonies of bacteria that secrete antibiotics. It is probably these substances that inhibit a number of different diseases and researchers now hope to find biological pesticides that may conquer resistant plant diseases. (2019-10-17)

Newly identified compounds could help give fire ants their sting
Native to South America, imported fire ants have now spread to parts of North America and elsewhere around the world. These invasive pests have painful stings that, in some cases, can cause serious medical problems, such as hypersensitivity reactions, infections and even kidney failure. Now, researchers reporting in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry have identified pyridine alkaloids that, along with other venom components, could contribute to these conditions. (2019-10-16)

Ant-plant partnerships may play unexpected role in ant evolution
Partnerships between ant and plant species appear to arise from -- but not drive -- rapid diversification of ants into new species. Katrina Kaur of the University of Toronto, Canada, and colleagues present these findings in PLOS Computational Biology. (2019-10-03)

How fungus-farming ants could help solve our antibiotic resistance problem
For the last 60 million years, fungus-growing ants have farmed fungi for food. In their cultivation of those fungi, they've successfully relied on bacteria-produced antimicrobial ingredients to protect their crops from other species of parasitic fungi. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution say they are looking to these ants to find new ways to stop or slow the evolution of antibiotic resistance that now presents a threat to modern medicine. (2019-09-26)

Animal collectives like ants should move through their environment like 'savvy gamblers'
Many animals have to move around in their environment to find resources to live and reproduce. (2019-08-06)

Ants that defend plants receive sugar and protein
The aggressiveness of ants in arid environments with scarce food supply helps protect plants against herbivorous arthropods. (2019-07-17)

How invading fungus forces zombie ant's death grip
Infected by a parasitic fungus, carpenter ants lose free will and die after clamping their mandibles (jaws) onto a twig or leaf vein. Scientists have investigated how the fungus takes control of the ant's jaw muscles and forces the insect's death grip. They discovered that it forces the muscle to contract so powerfully that it wrecks the minute muscle filaments that slide past each other, clamping the ant in place. (2019-07-17)

Australian ants prepared for 'Insect Armageddon'
La Trobe University researchers have uncovered an exception to the global phenomenon known as 'Insect Armageddon' in the largest study of Australian insect populations conducted to date. (2019-07-16)

Timing is everything for the mutualistic relationship between ants and acacias
Ant-acacia plants attract ants by offering specialized food and hollow thorns in which the ants live, while the ant colony in turn defends its acacia against herbivores. This mutualistic relationship only occurs in older plants. New findings from University of Pennsylvania plant biologists, identify the genetic pathway that appears to regulate the timing of the acacia's ant-sustaining arsenal. (2019-07-16)

Robot-ants that can jump, communicate with each other and work together
A team of EPFL researchers has developed tiny 10-gram robots that are inspired by ants: they can communicate with each other, assign roles among themselves and complete complex tasks together. These reconfigurable robots are simple in structure, yet they can jump and crawl to explore uneven surfaces. The researchers have just published their work in Nature. (2019-07-10)

No escape for mosquitoes
Venus flytraps are capable of detecting the movements of even the smallest insects. This mechanism protects the plant against starving from hyperactivity as a new study conducted by scientists from Würzburg and Cambridge reveals. (2019-07-08)

Ant farmers boost plant nutrition
Research, led by Dr. Guillaume Chomicki from the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, has demonstrated that millions of years of ant agriculture has remodeled plant physiology. Farming ants deposit nitrogen-rich feces directly inside plants, which has led to the evolution of these ultra-absorptive plant structures. (2019-06-24)

Distinguishing helpful and harmful gut immune cells offers new view on inflammatory diseases
A type of immune cell that contributes to inflammatory bowel disease exists in two forms, 'good' and 'bad.' A new Crick-led study in Immunity has characterized these distinct populations, which could help scientists to develop treatments targeting inflammation while preserving healthy gut function. (2019-06-19)

Ants maintain essential interactions despite environmental flux
Ants adjust their social interactions to accommodate changes in population density, according to researchers at Penn State and Georgetown University. The findings suggest that ant colonies are capable of maintaining their sophisticated social organization despite potentially drastic changes in their environments. (2019-06-12)

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