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Why do mother ants sometimes eat their young?

Why do mother ants sometimes eat their young?

In insect colonies, it is common for leaders to eat their own children. There is always a reason for that. There is no difference between Ants Queens of the Black Garden (Lasius Niger), or simply black ants, common in grasses.

Now, a study has been published as Preprint Determine why this happens. Generally, when a queen ant notices that her offspring are sick, she eats it before the disease spreads to the rest of the nest.

In the research, queens ate 92% of their sick offspring, but only 6% of their unaffected offspring. According to the study, this shows that they are able to detect infection and intervene.

Benefits to the colony

In the laboratory, the researchers tested the effects of fungal infection if Ants The queens did not eat the contaminated offspring. As a result, all the new offspring died and only 20% of the queens survived.

Therefore, if the queen becomes infected and dies, the colony dies as well. In this way, the black ant method has proven effective.

Moreover, eating sick puppies has other benefits as well. Since they eat more calories, they also have more energy to reproduce. The researchers found that in these cases, Ants Queens began laying 55% more eggs.

This advantage, along with removing the risk of disease, may explain one way in which offspring cannibalism can evolve in some species, the researchers say.

But isn't the queen ant infected?

Generally no, but there is a risk. According to scientists, Ants The queens produce a toxin consisting of an antimicrobial acid. When it encounters infection in its colony, it releases this substance into sick chicks, but it is not as effective as ingesting it.

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According to the study, they also ingest their own antimicrobial toxins to make their intestines hostile to fungal spores.

Now, scientists aim to understand whether offspring born after eating their older siblings have an immune system that better protects against fungal infections.