Fifty Different Species Of Ant Keep Other Ants As Slaves
It is well known that insects are brutal creatures that must resort to violence in order to survive. But it turns out that many ants take acts of savagery unusually far. One species of ant known as Polyergus breviceps keeps other ants as slaves. There are fifty known ant species that demonstrate similar slave-making behaviors. But there are over fifteen thousand species of ant that have been described by scientists, so this particular behavior is considered unusual. However, some researchers believe that many more slave-making ants exist in the world and have yet to be discovered. One species of slave-making ant was discovered in Michigan, Vermont and New York in 2014. Most slave-maker ants commit a series of cunning and brutal acts in order to ensure compliance among their captured slaves.
Many slave-maker ants deploy soldier ants in order to locate and raid other nearby ant colonies. But at least one slave-maker species sees a female ant raiding a nearby ant nest in order to locate a shelter for her offspring. This species is the above mentioned Polyergus breviceps. The female finds a foreign ant nest that contains many pupae that are close to hatching. Once the female locates the proper nest, it will kill all of the adult ants on her own, leaving it alone with the remaining pupa. Once the pupa hatch, the newborns sense the slave-maker female’s pheromones. Instead of recognizing the slave-maker as a foreign intruder, the pheromones fool the offspring into treating the slave-maker as their natural mother. In other words, the female slave-maker ant will kidnap baby ants in order to raise them as its own after killing their parents. The female then inhabits the nest along with her real offspring and her kidnapped adoptees. The kidnapped ants spend their lives grooming the female slave-maker’s eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the slave-maker’s daughters will search for other nests to invade. Once an ideal nest has been found, the daughters return to their mother, and a band of soldier ants are organized in order to raid the nest. This time one adult victim is spared in order to help the slave-maker ants raid other nests before kidnapping more offspring. These ants can use chemical messengers as a method of warfare. The slave-makers possess glands that secrete a chemical that fools victims of different nests into fighting each other instead of the slave-making invaders. These brutal acts are committed repeatedly over the course of the slave-makers lives.
Do you know of any other insect species that resorts to similar slave-making methods?