Thursday, 28 July 2016

Ants invented farming 60 million years ago after ditching hunter-gatherer lifestyle, scientists discover

While farmer ants emerged just after the dinosaurs died out, human only came up with the idea of agriculture 10,000 years ago

Ian Johnston Science Correspondent 
Wednesday 20 July 2016

After the age of the dinosaurs came to an end some 65 million years ago, a ‘tribe’ of ants known to scientists as the Attini decided to give up life as hunter-gatherers and become farmers instead, according to a new genetic study.

It was an astonishing move that humans only managed to accomplish some 10,000 years ago.

The ants, native to South America, began farming fungus that grew on decomposing wood, setting off an evolutionary revolution.

About 25 million year ago, one group of fungus farmers began growing a particular fungi that produced protein-rich bulbs that proved a highly nutrious food.

This allowed ant colonies to increase in size until 15 million years ago when the leafcutter ant emerged. They feed a fully domesticated species of fungus kept in vast underground farms with fresh green leaves every day, supporting colonies number millions of individual insects.

paper about the research, published in the journal Nature Communications, said that ants had evolved “complex societies with industrial-scale farming”.

“Farming created advanced human civilizations in just a few thousand years, producing a huge diversity of domesticated crops with improved nutrition, growth characteristics and yield,” the researchers wrote. 

“Industrial-scale farming, comparable to that in humans, has evolved in only two non-human organisms, the fungus-growing ants and termites. 

Read on … 

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