Thursday, January 5, 2012

Super Creepy Crawlies

Scientists create freakish man-made monster ants with huge heads and jaws.

Nightmarish 'supersoldier' ants with huge heads and jaws have been created by activating ancient genes.

Scientists believe the monster ants may be a genetic throwback to an ancestor that lived millions of years ago.
Scientists say they can create the supersoldiers at will by dabbing normal ant larvae with a special hormone - the larvae then develop into supersoldiers rather than normal soldier or worker ants.

Authors Dr Rajendhran Rajakumar, from McGill University, Canada, and colleagues wrote: 'We uncovered an ancestral development potential to produce a novel supersoldier subcaste that has been retained throughout a hyperdiverse ant genus that evolved 35 to 60 million years ago.' (Sciency talk for "Hey, check this shit out!")
I'm hoping that science will find a way to create ants that stay outdoors and avoid picnic tables. Or maybe genetically modify fire ants to un-invade the south.


Brian said...

It actually begs a very interesting question: if the supersoldier phenotype is a throwback to an ancestor (I'm not clear on how they know that, but I'm assuming it's something to do with the fossil record), then at some point hormonal suppression of that phenotype became selected for. In other words, the environment changed in such a way that having supersoldiers around was no longer advantageous, or colonies without them were ultimately more successful.

It certainly challenges the simplistic notion that the biggest and strongest always survive. Other factors (especially the ability to coordinate and cooperate) may be more beneficial, particularly for species that live in colonies.

Gino said...

what is left out is the species of ant.
the argentine ants, which are the most numerous and problematic in CA... its been recently discovred that they all seem to be related. so genetically close that colonies dont recognise another as foreign, there no ant wars between them. this makes them harder to eradicate since other lesser species are getting hammered by them, and they refuse to fight amongst themselves.
(the argentines are not native here either)

Night Writer said...

To get fire ants to "un-invade" the South, they should try cross-breeding them with French ants.

Brian said...

When I think about the South being invaded, I always think about the town of Cary, NC (near Raleigh), referred to by locals as the "Containment Area for Relocated Yankees".

The funny thing is that it's almost literally true.

Gino said...

so its like the northern burbs of ATL?

Brian said...

Yes, but more so.

Brian said...

The north side also contains many of the white people who used to live on the south side.