ants like their aunts

It seems that ants aren’t as cooperative and selfless as they’re cracked up to be. Minttumaaria Hannonen and Liselotte Sundstrom of the University of Helsinki report in the Feb. 27 Nature that they have found the first evidence of nepotism in ants. Ant colonies are often made up of worker ants descended from multiple queens, all of which appear to work cooperatively in the colony’s best interest. But, by using genetic screening, the Finnish researchers have found that Formica fusca ants actively favor their own relatives when caring for eggs and larvae. This means that ants also have developed some way of identifying how closely related they are to each other. Even for ants, blood, or hemolymph in this case, is thicker than water.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 3/04/2003.
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