According to scientists from Japan, caterpillars make Pristomyrmex punctatus ants turn into real “zombies”.
Until the last moment, scientists believed that we have an example of a mutually beneficial relationship. Simply put, the caterpillars fed the Pristomyrmex punctatus ants with sugar drops, which in turn kept them safe. But experts noticed that the caterpillars are always guarded by the same ants, not looking for food and not returning to their homes. This seemed strange, and it was decided to conduct a series of experiments.
As it turned out, the ants allowed to eat the secretions of caterpillars turned into some kind of zombie. They were constantly near the protected object and, as if on command, rushed into battle. Others, who did not feed on secretions, did not respond to orders from the caterpillars of Narathura japonica.
Further research only confirmed the initial guesses. It turned out, for example, that the bodyguard ants had a reduced level of dopamine in the body. A drug blocking dopamine transport took them out of control.
According to scientists, it is impossible to speak in this case about a "mutually beneficial" neighborhood, since the caterpillars turn ants into their servants or slaves. True, the secretions of caterpillars contain many nutrients, and this allows the guards to carry out their difficult tasks normally.
Earlier, we recall, other researchers talked about the behavior of "crazy" ants of the species Paratrechina longicornis. Scientists have found out the reason for the chaotic movements that seem strange at first glance.