Carpenter ants give each other salivating KISSES to exchange food and important proteins in their spit

Carpenter ants give each other salivating KISSES to exchange food and important proteins in their spit, study finds

  • Carpenter ants share both food and important proteins during the ‘kissing’
  • This ensures that each ant has what it needs to fulfill its role in the colony
  • For example, nurse ants caring for the young turned out to have more anti-aging proteins in their stomachs

Carpenter ants give each other salivating “kiss” to exchange saliva and create a colony-wide metabolism, a new study has revealed.

During the ‘kiss’, ants share both food and important proteins, according to the team at the University of Friborg.

This exchange ensures that every ant has what it needs to fulfill its role in the colony, be it a forager, nurse or queen.

The team hopes the findings could help shed light on how other creatures, including humans, divide metabolic tasks between different tissues or different cells in their bodies.

Carpenter ants give each other salivating ‘kiss’ to exchange saliva and create a colony-wide metabolism, new study has revealed (stock image)

What are carpenter ants?

Carpenter ants get their name from their nest building, where they will dig out the wood and form smooth tunnels in the wood.

Carpenter ants do not eat wood, they only dig and chew through wood to make nests.

The western black carpenter ant colony, when mature, contains about 10-20,000 workers, with large colonies of over 50,000 individuals.

Source: Pest World

In the study, the researchers sought to understand why ants share fluids via “kissing.”

“Individual ants have two stomachs: one for digesting their own food and another that comes first, a ‘social stomach’ for storing fluids that they share with other ants in their colony,” explains Adria LeBoeuf, senior author of the study, from .

“These fluid exchanges allow ants to share food and other important proteins that the ants produce themselves.”

The researchers analyzed the ant-produced proteins in the social stomachs of individual ants, before comparing how the proteins varied depending on the ant’s role in the colony.

They also assessed whether the proteins varied depending on whether the ants were part of a new colony or a more established one.

“To help us understand why ants share these fluids, we examined whether the proteins they exchange are related to an individual’s role in the colony or to the colony’s life cycle,” explains lead author Sanja Hakala.

Their analysis revealed different proteins depending on the ant’s role in the colony and the age of the colony.

The researchers analyzed the ant-produced proteins in the social stomachs of individual ants, before comparing how the proteins varied depending on the ant's role in the colony.

The researchers analyzed the ant-produced proteins in the social stomachs of individual ants, before comparing how the proteins varied depending on the ant’s role in the colony.

For example, ants in more mature colonies had more proteins related to the growth and metamorphosis of their young.

Meanwhile, nurse ants caring for the cubs were found to have more anti-aging proteins in their stomachs.

In general, this indicates that colony members can pool their life-prolonging proteins in the nurses to ensure that the next generation is cared for.

Ms. Hakala said: “These findings show that some members of the colony can perform metabolic work for the benefit of others.”

While the researchers emphasize that more work is needed to understand the role of each protein, they hope the findings will shed light on how other creatures, including humans, divide metabolic tasks between different tissues or different cells in their bodies.

Ms LeBoeuf added: ‘It is difficult to measure how metabolic work is shared between cells.

“Here the ants pass things along in a way that we can easily access what they share.

“If we better understand how ants share metabolic work, we can learn more about the ways in which other creatures, such as humans, divide metabolic tasks among different tissues or different cells in their bodies.”

HOW DO ANTS USE MATHEMATICS TO BUILD ‘LIVING BRIDGES’?

Different species of ants build ‘living bridges’ made of their own bodies to bridge small gaps.

Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology showed in 2015 that up to 20 percent of a colony can be trapped in bridges on a route at any one time.

This is when an individual ant can run a ‘bridging’ algorithm.

An ant can see how many times it has been stamped by previous ants and use this to judge the width of the bridge.

When this reaches a certain number, an ant – deeming too many members of the colony now occupying bridges – can join the march again.

Different species of ants build 'living bridges' made of their bodies to bridge small gaps

Different species of ants build ‘living bridges’ made of their bodies to bridge small gaps

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