Drivers in Miami, Florida, spend almost 50 hours a year stuck in traffic. New York City drivers spend close to 60 hours. Washington, DC, drivers honk their horns for a whopping 65 hours per year. The leafcutter ant? Zero hours. Ants avoid traffic jams all while carrying food for their colonies, navigating miles of terrain, and coordinating with tens of thousands of other ants.
Researchers have changed the size of a handful of Florida ants by chemically modifying their DNA, rather than by changing its encoded information. The work is the latest advance from a field known as epigenetics and may help explain how the insects—despite their high degree of genetic similarity—grow into the different varieties of workers needed in a colony.
There are tiny tropical flies that turn fire ants into zombies with larvae that eat the ant's brain. But wait: This fly story gets even better. Researchers have discovered a related group of female flies that bite off ant heads and then haul them away for dinner.
Little did you know that humans were not the first farmers. A lineage of ants based in South America has been known to cultivate their own food using a selective process that produces a high-yield fungus. Now researchers have found that not only have these ants been doing this for the greater part of 50 million years, but they have actually improved the practice over time.
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