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Natural selection, survival of the fittest is the core idea of Darwinian evolution. An ant colony trapped in the underground nuclear weapon bunker for several years has become eating ants in order to survive!
With the intervention of scientists, more than 1 million eating ants trapped in an underground nuclear weapon bunker in the Soviet Union for many years finally escaped. The colony was first discovered in 2013. They are completely composed of workers, which means they cannot reproduce.
At that time, scientists estimated that about one million workers were trapped in the bunker, because the ant colony was mainly located in the mound above the ventilation pipe of the bunker. For many years, the hapless workers fell into the bunker from the ventilation pipe continuously, once they fell on the ground of the bunker, they could not climb out. Poor workers live in crowded bunkers, without light, heat or obvious food source. How do they survive?
Scientists say that after a few years, these hardy ant colonies are still thriving, and they are likely to survive by devouring the bodies of their companions, because a large number of worker ant remains have been found on the ground of the bunker. They collected more than 150 ant corpses in the bunker and found obvious bite marks on the corpses. Statistical data showed that 93% of the ant corpses showed signs of being swallowed by the same kind, which means that the ant colony survived in extreme environment, completely based on swallowing the corpses of its peers.
Professor Wojciech czechowski, a Polish scientist, explained that in nature, similar eating occurs in spring, when protein food is very scarce. In these so-called ant wars, ants not only feed on fresh corpses, but also delimit the boundary of adjacent ant colony territory.
This phenomenon will add a cognitive dimension to ants great adaptability to marginal habitats and suboptimal conditions. This discovery is a key example to understand that ants are undoubtedly successful in ecological evolution.
In the spring of 2016, scientists decided to conduct human intervention and finally release trapped ants. Initially, they released a group of 100 ants from the bunker to enter the periphery of the mother ant nest. In order to confirm the relationship between the two isolated ant colonies, as they expected, no ant attack behavior was observed.
Then in September of the same year, they built a 3-meter-long vertical plank road, with one end on the bunker ant colony highland and the other end plugged into the ventilation duct. Soon some ants found this escape route. In February 2017, there was no ant in the underground bunker. The mother ant colony still built a nest on the top of the bunker at the exit of the ventilation pipe. The ants still continued to fall from the ventilation pipe, but the construction of the plank road was convenient for the trapped ants to escape from the bunker. The latest study is published in the Journal of Hymenoptera research.
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