Worker ants paralyze and kill termites from afar

Dec 14, 2011

Worker ants from a particular species of African ants have potent venom that can paralyze and kill termites from a distance, according to a study published Dec. 14 in the online journal PLoS ONE.

The research, conducted using a species called Crematogaster striatula, showed that chemicals the emit from their stinger have three functions: they attract nearby nestmates; repel alien ants; and paralyze and kill termites. While the first two effects require the ants to come into direct contact with the chemical, it appears that the termite effect can occur from a distance, without direct contact. This is important because, while alien ants competing for sugary will retreat upon sensing the chemical, termites remain and defend their territory.

The long-range activity of the ant venom protects them from the termites without having to come into direct contact. The researchers, led by Angelique Vetillard of the University of Toulouse in France, also characterized the specific chemicals in the venom, providing initial clues about the source of the venom toxicity.

The implications of this research "are promising because they provide a basis from which further studies can be conducted in the search for , including new molecules effective against insects resistant to currently-used insecticides", says Dr. Vetillard.

Explore further: 'Femme fatale' emerald ash borer decoy lures and kills males

More information: Rifflet A, Tene N, Orivel J, Treilhou M, Dejean A, et al. (2011) Paralyzing Action from a Distance in an Arboreal African Ant Species. PLoS ONE 6(12):e28571. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028571

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DavidMcC
not rated yet Dec 15, 2011
Perhaps it would have been worth mentioning that termite soldiers have spray-guns of their own, so this would be a case of "fighting fire with fire".
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Dec 15, 2011
Perhaps it would have been worth mentioning that termite soldiers have spray-guns of their own


I think the point here is that these projectile liquids were thought to be 'contact only' weapons up to now.
This seems to indicate that the found weaponry is 'area of effect' (i.e. it can paralyze tremites without a direct hit).
DavidMcC
5 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2011
Perhaps it would have been worth mentioning that termite soldiers have spray-guns of their own


I think the point here is that these projectile liquids were thought to be 'contact only' weapons up to now.
This seems to indicate that the found weaponry is 'area of effect' (i.e. it can paralyze tremites without a direct hit).


That's just what the article said. All I was saying is that what was missing is that the ants would have been at a disadvantage against termites, because they are already known to have long range weapons. Let's not go round in circles.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2011
Just wondering why you would bring this up about the long range weaponry of termites (which is well known). This article isn't about a finding in termites. So why should they include it?
DavidMcC
5 / 5 (1) Dec 16, 2011
Just wondering why you would bring this up about the long range weaponry of termites (which is well known). This article isn't about a finding in termites. So why should they include it?

Because an article about "balance of forces" should describe both sides of the balance, even if part of that is "well known", because some peope will always forget some detail or other, that could be important. Just a good principle to go by, that's all.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Dec 16, 2011
If it were an article on the balance of forces I'd agree. But since it's not...
DavidMcC
not rated yet Dec 16, 2011
An article on insect weaponry that lacks the relevant context is not the best possible science. It should have been about balance of forces if it was anything to do with the evolution of such weaponry.

If you dismiss the context as not relevant, then the article is stamp-collecting, not science.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Dec 16, 2011
Again: This is not an article about weaponry. This is an article about the multiple uses of the chemicals exuded by a stinger. Attack/defense is just one of the three applications.

Or would you also include that termites use pheromones in an article about ant pheromones?
DavidMcC
not rated yet Dec 16, 2011
Again: This is not an article about weaponry. This is an
Or would you also include that termites use pheromones in an article about ant pheromones?


Only if the one was relevant to the evolution of the other, as is the case for the spray weapons, I would have thought. I thought this site dealt with evolutionary science, not biological stamp collecting, but even the science need not include everything on earth, only the most relevant bits, and the armaments of one side are highly relevant to the armaments of the other.
It is a fallacy to argue that you shouldn't include anything just because there COULD POSSIBLY be something else. In fact, it would be quite intereting to compare the range, lethality and "costs" of the two spray weapons, but this doesn't even get a look in if you don't mention the "balance of forces" at all.
DavidMcC
not rated yet Dec 16, 2011
Another point is that a direct comparison of the actual spray weaponry and "success in battle" should reveal whether there is indeed some less obvious aspect of the (literal) arms race, such as pheromones.