Scientists Grow Supersoldier Ants

Posted on January 5, 2012

Pheidole Supersoldier Ant

Researchers at McGill University have grown supersoldier ants in different species of pheidole ants. The oversized ants have enormous heads and jaws compared to a regular sized ant. These supersoldier pheidole ants rarely emerge in nature. Scientists can now "grow" the ants whenever they want by adding a hormone to the ant larvae. The cool photographs of the ants were taken by biologist and photographer Alex Wild.

Biologist Ehab Abouheif of McGill University and his team of researchers found that by adding the hormone methoprene at just the right time during larvae development the ant goes on to develop into a supersoldier. PBS reports that the researchers were able to grow supersoldiers in every pheidole ant species they tried. The researchers believe the ability to become supersoldiers is a hidden ancestral developmental potential that exists in all pheidole ant species. There are over 1,100 species of pheidole ants.

Pheidole Supersoldier Ants

The research was published in the Jan. 06, 2012 issue of Science, published by AAAS. The paper, by R. Rajakumar at McGill University in Montreal, QC, Canada, and colleagues was titled, "Ancestral Developmental Potential Facilitates Parallel Evolution in Ants."

Photos: Alex Wild
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