Worker ants store fat for lean times

July 27, 2006

U.S. scientists found ants have the ability to store excess fat and pass it to colony members through lipid-rich oral secretions or unfertilized eggs.

University of Florida researcher Daniel Hahn says for perennial organisms, such as ant colonies, investing heavily in nutrient stores when food availability is high is a potential bet-hedging strategy for dealing with times of famine.

"Understanding the regulation of nutrient reserves, particularly fat storage, at the individual and colony levels is critical to understanding both the division of labor characteristics of social insect colonies and the evolution of important colony life-history traits such as the timing of reproduction, founding mode and over-wintering behavior," said Hahn.

The unusual research will appear in the September-October issue of the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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