Sunday, 29 April 2018

New ant species from Borneo explodes to defend its colony



Date:  April 19, 2018
Source:  Pensoft Publishers

Summary:
When their colony is threatened by an intruder, workers of a newly discovered species of ant can actually tear their own body apart, in order to release toxins and either kill or hold off the enemy. The new species is the first of the so-called 'exploding ants' to be described since 1935.
Amongst the countless fascinating plants and animals inhabiting the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, there are the spectacular "exploding ants," a group of arboreal, canopy dwelling ants nicknamed for their unique defensive behaviour.

When threatened by other insects, minor workers can actively rupture their body wall. Apart from leading to the ants' imminent death, the "explosion" releases a sticky, toxic liquid from their enlarged glands, in order to either kill or hold off the enemy.

Curiously enough, while these ants' peculiar behaviour was first mentioned in distant 1916, no new species have been formally described since 1935, due to insufficient evidence. Instead, scientists used to simply refer to them as the members of a remarkable species group -- Colobopsis cylindrica, better known as "the exploding ants."

That was until an interdisciplinary research team from Austria, Thailand and Brunei came together led by their shared fascination with these insects and their extraordinary mechanism of self-sacrifice (also called autothysis) in 2014. Thus, entomologists, botanists, microbiologists, and chemists from the Natural History Museum Vienna, Technical University Vienna, IFA Tulln and Universiti Brunei Darussalam together identified roughly 15 separate species of exploding ants, with one of them now described as new to science in the open access journal ZooKeys.



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