Ants can know when they will die

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Culture & Science - Science
Thursday, 08 November 2007 22:18

Ants have a reputation for working and wise, there are hundreds of fables that have as their protagonists copies. Many extolled its virtues. Now there is a virtue more to add to the list, not only are hard workers and are willing to give his life for his companions, but they take more risks for the good of the colony as they get older, since they apparently can measure almost exactly how much time they have left of life.

Dawid Moron and his colleagues at Jagiellonian University in Poland have conducted laboratory experiments to discover that the ants have the ability to calibrate the end of his life and use the safety of his imminent death to take greater risks.

He was already well established that worker ants tend to take greater risks as they age. The entomologists have demonstrated that this behavior beneficial to the colony because certain risky activities such as foraging far from the nest, were better done by ants that were nearing the end of its useful life. It was not profitable to send an ant colony young high-risk jobs.

As a result, younger ants tend to perform care tasks around the nest, much safer. But scientists are asking the question of whether the ants had some internal mechanism to tell them how old they were and how long they had before they died.

Dr. Moron thought he could manipulate artificially the life span of an ant, and observe the changes in risk taking. Their study, published in the latest edition of the journal Animal Behavior, did just that by increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the room where the ants nest.

High concentrations of carbon dioxide increase the acidity of the blood and reduce the life span of the ants.

As scientists had predicted, the worker ants of the colony began to forage for food go further before it would have done in natural circumstances. "This implies that ant workers adjust their threshold for dealing with risk in food according to their life expectancy," said Dr. Moron.

With this discovery we can see that ants have an extreme altruism, are not only prepared to sacrifice in the service and the protection of his queen, but have the ability to make careful calculations of how much risk you should take based on what remains of life. It's far from egoism that characterizes our species as our altruism is very different, one can say that this will give us an idea of what selfishness evolved in our species, perhaps because in the Homo sapien s seniors are important, knowledge helps the species, are not disposable like ants.

Source: The Independent