American biologists have discovered insects that change the size of their own brain

American biologists have discovered insects that change the size of their own brain
American biologists have discovered insects that change the size of their own brain
Anonim

Working individuals of Indian jumping ants can restore and then lose their ability to reproduce, and during these transformations, their brains change by a quarter in size.

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The large ant colony consists of sterile and wingless females who play the roles of workers, soldiers, nannies, and even pharmacists. Only the uterus reproduces, and its death, as a rule, means the death of the entire family. However, in some cases, sterile individuals are able to radically change their physiology, restoring fertility and claiming the role of a new "queen". The most famous example of such a transformation is the Indian jumping ants (Harpegnathos saltator).

Outwardly, they change little. However, the body is undergoing profound restructuring: the ovaries increase, the poisonous glands sharply decrease, and the brain "dries up" by a quarter - all resources are directed to the production of new eggs. These "breeding workers" are called gamergats. Those of them who did not manage to become a queen can repeat this transition in the opposite direction, returning to their previous sterile state. This reverse process was followed by the authors of a new article published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Clint Penick and colleagues at the University of Arizona isolated a pair of gamergates from 30 colonies of H. saltator that were monitored in the laboratory. One gamergat was left "alone", and the other was placed in temporary isolation from the rest of the colony, which triggered the process of returning to a sterile form. The scientists then compared their behavior and physiology.

The return took six to eight weeks and affected all of the altered organs. Biologists were surprised to observe not only the growth of poisonous glands, but also the return of the previous brain volume. Unlike the womb, which spends days in immobility and darkness, simply laying new eggs, working individuals operating in the real world need a brain. The authors of the work note that its regeneration in Indian ants is the first such example found among insects.

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