Ants communicate with kisses, scientists have found

Муравьи общаются при помощи поцелуев, выяснили ученые

Ants convey important social information in a most unusual way – they “kiss” and exchange of pheromones, thus bringing the will of the Queen to all the inhabitants of the colony, according to a paper published in the journal eLife.

“Many of us believed that trophallaxis is only a mechanism for the exchange of food. But it turned out that such contacts occur in other contexts, for example when an ant meets with a relative after a long isolation. Therefore we checked, whether there are any “social” molecules in the liquid exchanged between the ants,” said Richard Benton (Richard Benton) from the University of Lausanne (Switzerland).

Ants and many other insects-collectivists have a tremendous capacity for self-organization in their colonies the activity of tens of thousands of individuals, which is synchronized itself, despite the lack of speech and other ways of fast and unambiguous exchange of information. Today ants and bees serve as role models for engineers developing robots and artificial intelligence.

Benton and his colleagues discovered a possible mechanism for such synchronization, studying one common to all social insects habit – so-called trophallaxis.

This word scientists understand the tradition of ants, bees, termites and other collective types of animals share food, trygive it or eating the feces of each other. It is believed that because insects not only provide the colony with food, but also form a collective immune system holds the link between the individual members of the hive and its Queen.

It tells Benton, scientists have long known that in this way termites and bees convey social information, but among the ants, the General opinion of entomologists, this ability was not observed. Benton and his team showed that in fact it is not, tracing the life of a colony of carpenter ants living in the southern United States. Watching the ants, the scientists caught them in the moment when they exchanged food, collected their identification and studied their chemical composition.

Much to the surprise of biologists, in this liquid contained a whole set of hormones that control body growth, as well as the substance that normally stimulates the growth of larvae and is not present in the body adults. In addition, scientists have discovered substances that help ants recognize members of their colony, and a number of other “social” molecules.

Most of all scientists interested in human growth hormone – experiments with them showed that their addition to food virtually doubles the chances of larvae survival. Accordingly, the Queen and the adult ants can control the growth of population in the ant colony by increasing or decreasing the concentration of hormones in the food they feed the larvae.

“Overall, we were able to show that the fluid is exchanged between ants, contains something more than food and digestive enzymes. Our study suggests that trophallaxis is a kind of communication which ants use to control the development of their young, similar to milk in mammals. It is possible that oral fluids such as saliva, and can control the behavior of other animals,” concludes Lebouf Adria (Adria Leboeuf), a colleague of Benton.