July 2, 2009

Researchers Discover Massive Super-Colony Of Ants

Researchers have discovered a massive invasion of Argentine ants that have spread across continents with the help of human influence.

What's more, the billions of ants that originated in South America appear to belong to the same colony, according to a team of researchers in Japan and Spain led by Eiriki Sunamura of the University of Tokyo.

Researchers noted that the ants roaming across Europe, Japan and California appear to have similar chemical profiles of hydrocarbons on their cuticles, they told BBC News.

The colony in Europe is estimated to cover 3,700 miles near the Mediterranean coast. Meanwhile the "Californian large" colony in the US covers more than 560 miles, and an additional colony resides in along the western coast of Japan.

Each colony appears to have originated from a single mega-colony, researchers said, which could "rival humans in the scale of its world domination," according to the BBC.

Scientists conducted tests on sample ants from each of the three colonies. They noted that while ants are typically very territorial, each of the sample ants tended to get along with their counterparts from different regions.

But when introduced to ants from Kobe and Catalonian colonies, the ants exhibited more noticeable territorial behaviors.

"The enormous extent of this population is paralleled only by human society," researchers concluded in the journal Insect Sociaux.

But the tiny insects wouldn't have expanded their influence so much if it weren't for humans, researchers noted. Through international travel, humans unknowingly carried the species from one continent to another, allowing their territories to grow.

"Humans created this great non-aggressive ant population," said Sunamura and colleagues.


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