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.
Research on the impact of ants on their local environment has revealed they play an important role. They have a dual effect on their local ecosystem which affects both the density and diversity of other species around them, including animals much higher up the food chain.
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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