Friday, February 20, 2009

Butterflies trick ants into raising their young

Beauty, grace, and slick talk just a cover for bad parenting and deception: caterpillar noises fool ants into treating them like royalty.

SCIENCE NEWS - Ants of the species Myrmica schencki can be fooled into carrying certain caterpillars into the colony nurseries where the fakers enjoy full care and five-star dining, explains Jeremy Thomas of the University of Oxford in England. An interloper caterpillar gains most of its body mass while luxuriating in ant care, and then turns into a Maculinea rebeli butterfly....

When he and his colleagues played the caterpillar recordings to an ant colony, workers reacted as they do to queen scratchings. Most distinctive was what Thomas describes as on-guard attendance. Clustering around the speaker, worker ants stay motionless in a hunched-over posture with antennae out and jaws slightly open. Like an honor guard around a human queen, worker ants will maintain that pose for hours.

Queen-mimicry could explain the VIP treatment caterpillars receive in the ant colony. “Quite often they’re treated as superior beings,” Thomas says. In a crisis, worker ants rescue caterpillars before a regular ant brood. And in famine, workers will kill their own brood and feed it to the caterpillar.

Never mind all the good press butterflies get just because they're pretty,
this duck has the right idea how to treat them

1 comment:

  1. It's the ultimate babysitting scam - why didn't I think of it?


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