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Stanford scientist uncovers the reproductive workings of a harvester ant dynasty
Date:2/12/2013

earchers also found that only about 25 percent of the colonies reproduce at all, and many of the daughter queens are not successful. The entire population the study group consisted of about 300 colonies relies on just a few queens to make most of the offspring year after year.

"We don't know whether all harvester ant populations always behave this way, or whether these trends hold true for all 11,000 ant species, because nobody has identified colony offspring before," Gordon said. "This gives us new insight on how ant populations change over time."

In general, ants play an important role in agriculture around the world, with some helping to disperse seeds while others eat herbivorous insects. Understanding how populations of ant colonies reproduce and expand, and the rate at which they do so, could be useful in managing invasive ant species, predicting crop yields and understanding the ecology of tropical forests.

"If you're trying to understand how a population grows say, you are trying to keep a population of lions going the first thing you need to know is how many lionesses you have, and how many cubs they have and can support per year," Gordon said. "For ecological purposes, it's very useful to be able to say how ant populations will grow. This is the first step toward understanding how to predict numbers of ant colonies."


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Contact: Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service
bccarey@stanford.edu
650-725-1944
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

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