Posts Tagged ‘white ant’

Small warning: this has nothing to do with chess…caught you out!

Interesting read:[from 2009]

Staying at home may have given the very first termite youngsters the best opportunity to rule the colony when their parents were killed by their neighbors. This is according to new research supported by the National Science Foundation and published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers say the incentive to remain home with siblings and inherit the parents’ estate could be the missing link to a question posed nearly 150 years ago by evolution theorist Charles Darwin. He wondered how natural selection could favor traits that reduce reproductive success among worker offspring in highly social insects.

This is especially curious because Darwin argued for small biological changes that result in greater chances of survival and successful reproduction over time. But social insects, ants, bees, wasps and termites colonies in particular can have over a million sterile and/or non-reproductive workers and soldiers, which seemed counterintuitive.

Research conducted by biologists at the University of Maryland, College Park shows that when two neighboring termite families meet within the same log, one or both families’ kings and queens are killed and a new, merged, cooperative colony results. Replacement “junior” kings and queens then develop from either or both colonies’ non-reproducing, worker offspring, and termites from the two families may even interbreed.

Pheromones produced by healthy kings and queens that normally suppress gonad development in worker or “helper” classes are absent or reduced when kings and queens are killed. As a result, suppression is lifted and nonrelated, “sterile,” helper offspring from both colonies are able to become new “reproductives” and assume the throne.

“Assassination of founding kings and queens may have driven young termite offspring to remain as non-reproducing workers in their birth colonies,” says lead researcher and University of Maryland professor Barbara L. Thorne. Rather than risking dangerous attempts at independent colony initiation outside the nest, remaining at home may have given these first termites a better opportunity to become reproducers by inheriting their parents’ throne. On the blue link you can view a video/audio clip about these termites.
Click HERE for the original article.

Click THIS LINK to read: ‘The Sould of the White Ant’ – by Eugene Marais – online in PDF format. You can also read a biographical note written by his son on this link.

Quote from Amazon: He was well, well ahead of his time and this enthralling, charming text should be treated as a historical document, not as a definitive guide to the termite.[Just ordered my copy – 2nd copy] I have a close relative busy with a study on the American termite and so has my interest in this ‘bug’ -or is it a mini-beast – started to grow again.

From Wikipedia: Eugene Marais: His book “Die Siel van die Mier” (lit. “The soul of the ant” but usually given in English as the “Soul of the White Ant”) was plagiarized by Nobel laureate Maurice Maeterlinck, who published “The Life of the White Ant” in 1926, falsely claiming many of Marais’ revolutionary ideas as his own. Maeterlinck was able to do this because he was Belgian and, though his mother tongue was French, he was fluent in Dutch, from which Afrikaans was derived. It was common at the time for worthy articles published in Afrikaans to be reproduced in Flemish and Dutch magazines and journals.

Marais contemplated legal action against Maeterlinck but gave up the idea in the face of the costs and logistics involved. The social anthropologist Robert Ardrey said in his introduction to The Soul of the Ape, published in 1969, that “As a scientist he was unique, supreme in his time, yet a worker in a science unborn.” He also refers to Marais’ work at length in his book ‘ African Genesis.’ Source: Wikipedia

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