Some ant species exhibit traits of shared-dominance

Summer is in full swing, which means one thing: ants. It’s likely you’ve been getting calls to deal with these pesky insects. Fortunately, researchers have come a little closer to understanding their behavior, and determining how these creatures behave and communicate.

queen ant

Researchers at Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences published a new study examining how the ant “pecking order” shakes out. Did you know that ants exhibit dueling behavior within their colonies, but that it isn’t always a single individual who wins out?

What the researchers were trying to determine was whether or not there is a way for ants to express aggression without it resulting in a winner and a loser. Through the use of a computer model, they were able to make an interesting determination regarding the social structure of the Indian jumping ants.

In these ants, when the colony’s queen dies, the female workers begin a series of ritual fights to determine who the next queen will be. While fierce, the duels rarely result in actual physical injury to the ant. By the time the ritual concludes, a group of around 10 workers will establish their dominance over the rest and essentially become a ruling council of queens over the rest of the colony. The researchers referred to these groups at “gamergates.”

Not all ant colonies operate in such a fashion. Though more research must be done, the majority of ant societies rely on a top down pecking order where a single individual holds sway over all others.

Will we find other, more fascinating methods of ant communication as we continue to study individual species? Only time, and more research, will tell.

Jim Harper
Jim Harper


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