Professor Mizuki Tsuji of the University of the Ryukyus and his team, in collaboration with Chiba University and others, have elucidated the mechanism by which ants perceive the size of their colony. The research team also includes Kyoto Institute of Technology, Toyama University, the University of Reading in the UK, Shimadzu Corporation, and Tohoku Gakuin University.

 Ants and termites live underground in pitch black, but they seem to be aware of the size of their colony (the number of nestmates). However, the mechanism by which they do this was largely unknown. The research team conducted an experiment on the giant ant, a species of ant that lives in Okinawa, whose ecology is well known.

 All worker ants are female and capable of laying eggs, but egg-laying behavior is usually suppressed by the action of the queen pheromone secreted by the queen. In this species, the queen periodically walks around the nest, making contact with worker ants and transmitting the queen pheromone, a "patrol behavior." The larger the colony, the more time the queen spends patrolling, but the smaller the colony, the less time she spends on patrolling. This study focused on the queen's reaction.

 When queen pheromone transmission is cut off, worker ants develop ovaries. In this experiment, it was found that queens can identify worker ants with developed ovaries, and increase their patrols when they encounter such workers. Furthermore, it was found for the first time that the queen pheromone of this species is a non-volatile cuticular hydrocarbon. When the queen encounters worker ants that have entered the "physiological state for laying eggs," she increases her patrol time, which leads to her perception of the colony size.

 The research team has now presented the world's first convincing evidence of a mechanism by which social insects indirectly "perceive" colony size. However, it is unclear whether this mechanism is common among social insects, and future comparative studies using other species are needed.

Paper information:[Biology Letters] Testing the negative feedback hypothesis of colony-size sensing in social insects

University of the Ryukyus

Acquire specialized knowledge and skills through a variety of learning. Established 7 faculties, 9 departments, and 7 centers

It is the only national university in Okinawa prefecture and is the southernmost and westernmost university in Japan.We will ensure the quality of education and develop human resources who can play an active role and contribute to the world by utilizing advanced expertise and problem-seeking ability based on a wide range of education.Fostering wisdom and setting an example for society by fully drawing out diverse personalities and talents and opening up a new era […]

Chiba University

Fostering human resources who will open up the next generation.To a future-oriented university that shines in the world

Chiba University has 10 faculties, 7 graduate schools / faculties, and a large number of affiliated facilities, and has specialized knowledge and skills, high problem-solving ability, high intelligence, ethical standards, and rich humanity, and has an interdisciplinary perspective. We aim to develop human resources who can play an active role internationally.Actively promote the enhancement of liberal arts education and the internationalization of educational activities, which are the basis of this […]

Toyama University

Practicing interesting lessons and interesting research that will open up the future

The University of Toyama is working to create an "interesting university" that offers encounters that will open up the future.We carry out lessons where you can receive highly specialized knowledge in an easy-to-understand, fun, and exciting way, and research that is unique or innovative and highly evaluated by society.Currently, human company art […]

Kyoto Institute of Technology

A school style that explores "knowledge, beauty, and skill."We provide "practical science" education based on manufacturing in a wide range of fields such as biotechnology, materials, electronics, information, machinery, environment, and architecture / design.

Aiming to create technology based on rich humanity, we will master our skills, seek the resonance of human intellect and sensibility, aim for the fusion of knowledge and beauty, and disseminate the results of education and research to the world.While deeply admiring the culture of Kyoto, which has a history of XNUMX years, he has a keen insight into the current state of the changing world and is proficient in science and technology that is in harmony with the environment […]

Tohoku Gakuin University

The largest private university in the Tohoku region. You can choose the department or faculty that best suits your interests.

In April 2023, the Tagajo and Izumi campuses will be consolidated to form the new Gobashi Campus. Tohoku Gakuin University is a comprehensive university with 4 years of history and tradition, with 9 faculties and 15 departments: Faculty of Letters, Faculty of Economics, Faculty of Business Administration, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Regional Studies, Faculty of Information Science, Faculty of Human Sciences, and Faculty of International Studies. Graduates[…]

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