May 13, 2014
[ Read the Article: Increases In Dopamine Levels Turn Worker Ants Into Warrior Queens ]
This video is of Harpegnathos saltator, or Indian jumping ants. The ants have been marked with colors to allow researchers to track their behavior. The ants are engaging in ritual fights to establish dominance.
In H. saltator when a colony’s queen dies, the female workers engage in these fights until a small group of workers establishes dominance over the colony — and becomes a cadre of worker queens or “gamergates.”
The gamergates look like ordinary workers, but they undergo extreme internal changes: their brains shrink by 25 percent; their ovaries expand to fill their abdomens; and their life expectancy jumps from about six months to several years or more.
New research from NC State shows that changes in hormone levels — particularly the levels of dopamine — are responsible for these physical changes.
Credit: Clint Penick / North Carolina State University