Ant Larvae Cannibalize Eggs in their own Colonies

To the casual observer, the colonies of social insects like bees and ants appear to be harmonious societies where individuals work together for the common good, but appearances can be deceiving.

A new study published in The American Naturalist by Eva Schultner and colleagues from the Universities of Helsinki, St. Andrews, and Oxford reveals that in ants, social conflicts occur even among the youngest colony members — the larvae and the eggs.

In behavioral experiments conducted at Tvärminne Zoological Station in Finland, ant larvae acted selfishly by cannibalizing eggs, but levels of cannibalism were lower when relatedness among brood was high. In addition, male larvae engaged in cannibalism more often than female larvae.

“Increased relatedness was associated with reduced levels of cannibalism, indicating that larval behavior is mediated by inclusive-fitness considerations,” the authors wrote. “Levels of cannibalism were significantly higher in male larvae, and our model suggests that this is due to sex differences in the benefits of cannibalism.”

The study involved eight different species of ants, all in the genus Formica.

Read more at:

Ant Larvae as Players in Social Conflict: Relatedness and Individual Identity Mediate Cannibalism Intensity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: