July 31, 2021


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Parasites as fountains of youth: Research finds contaminated ants stay much longer

Image: Two ants of the species Temnothorax nylanderi: The lighter coloured ant is infected with larvae of the tapeworm Anomotaenia brevis (base appropriate) and as a result has a unique cuticle colour as…
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Credit: photograph/©: Susanne Foitzik

Ant workers that are contaminated with a tapeworm dwell significantly for a longer period than their uninfected nest-mates. Parasitic infections are ordinarily hazardous to their hosts, but there are some exceptions. According to the results of a multi-12 months scientific study, ants of the species Temnothorax nylanderi present exceptionally significant survival charges when infected with a tapeworm. “The lifespan of the infected ants is considerably prolonged. In accordance to our observations, these types of workers have a survival price identical to that of queens,” reported Professor Susanne Foitzik of Johannes Gutenberg College Mainz (JGU), chief of the examine. Queens of this species can are living for up to 20 several years, when feminine employees seldom access the age of two. Among the doable explanations for this extended lifespan are the adjust in the physiology of infected ants induced by the parasites and the reality that contaminated personnel are superior provided with meals.

Social treatment in the nest linked to extended everyday living

In the case of ants, there is a stark divergence in lifespan concerning woman castes. Many ant queens can endure for quite a few a long time. They spend practically all their lives securely in the nest wherever they are cared for by the staff, their daughters. In contrast, ant staff are living for only a handful of months or months or, in rare conditions, a couple a long time. The infertile employees have out all jobs in the nest, commencing in brood treatment and progressing to riskier routines exterior the colony as they improve older, this sort of as foraging for meals. The significant everyday living expectancy of queens is owing to their lower mortality rate, which is attributable to the higher ranges of social treatment they receive, their safe and sound setting, and the activation of physiological restore mechanisms.

These things may also add to the particularly significant survival fees of Temnothorax-nylanderi workers contaminated with a tapeworm. This species of ant is popular in Central Europe and forms little colonies on the forest flooring, inside acorns or picket branches. The insects are comparatively small, with a system size of just two to three millimeters. They provide as an intermediate host for the tapeworm Anomotaenia brevis, whereby a single ant can be infected by up to 70 parasitic larvae. The parasites endure in the hemolymph, the entire body fluid of insects. Their intricate lifetime cycle is done the moment they have been ingested by a woodpecker that feeds on the ants.

The research group led by Professor Susanne Foitzik seemed at the extended-term repercussions of the parasitic infection by collecting ant colonies from forests close to Mainz and observing them in the laboratory. “We tracked the survival level of the employees and queens in each contaminated and uninfected ant colonies over three decades, right up until extra than 95 % of the uninfected staff experienced died,” spelled out Foitzik. At that position, above 50 percent of the infected staff were being still alive – exhibiting a survival price virtually identical to that of the prolonged-lived queens. “It is very extraordinary that a parasite can trigger these types of a optimistic change in its host. This lifespan extension is extremely strange,” emphasised the JGU-centered evolutionary biologist.

Contaminated personnel vary in visual appeal, habits, and physiology

The contaminated ants are effortlessly distinguished from their brown nest-mates thanks to their lighter, yellow shade, an impact that benefits from their cuticle becoming fewer pigmented. They are also considerably less lively and receive increased care from other staff in the nest. “The contaminated bugs get additional awareness and are fed, cleaned, and appeared immediately after greater. They even advantage from somewhat much more treatment than the nest’s queen,” defined Professor Susanne Foitzik. The tests also disclosed that infected ants have metabolic premiums and lipid degrees very similar to people of youthful ants. It would seem to be that these ants continue to be in a long-lasting juvenile stage as a result of the infection. This is very likely down to each the tapeworm larvae altering the expression of ant genes that affect ageing and to the parasites’ release of proteins that contains anti-oxidants into the ants’ hemolymph.

Even although the mystery of their extended lifetime has not yet been absolutely fixed, the actions of the contaminated ants by themselves does not seem to be the decisive element. The investigation crew, which incorporated experts from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing and Tel Aviv College, uncovered no proof that the insects actively beg for greater treatment. However, chemical alerts on the cuticle of infected ants had been observed to elicit extra notice of their nest-mates. “The contaminated bugs are living a daily life of luxury, but the truth that they get additional social care are not able to by yourself account for their prolonged lifespan,” concluded Foitzik. The researchers will undertake even more study in buy to identify the things, specifically on the molecular and epigenetic degree, powering the contaminated staff demise-defying characteristics.


Linked links:&#13

https://www.blogs.uni-mainz.de/fb10-evolutionary-biology/research-teams/group-foitzik/ – Evolution and Behavioral Ecology of Ants group at the JGU Institute of Organismic and Molecular Evolution (IOME)

Read a lot more:&#13

https://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/aktuell/13410_ENG_HTML.php – push release “Ant responses to social isolation resemble people of individuals” (7 April 2021) &#13

https://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/aktuell/10918_ENG_HTML.php – push launch “Conversation and waterproofing: Melting homes identify the organic capabilities of the cuticular hydrocarbon layer of ants” (26 Feb. 2020) &#13

https://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/aktuell/7703_ENG_HTML.php – push release “Arms race among ant societies: Gene exercise in defenders depends on invading slavemaking ants” (28 Feb. 2019) &#13

https://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/aktuell/5983_ENG_HTML.php – push launch “A study of ants gives data on the evolution of social bugs” (10 Sept. 2018) &#13

https://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/aktuell/5412_ENG_HTML.php – press launch “Brood care gene steers the division of labor amid ants” (19 June 2018) &#13

https://www.uni-mainzde/presse/aktuell/2007_ENG_HTML.php – push release “Chemical profile of ants adapts rapidly” (14 Aug. 2017)&#13

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