"Superorganism" Ants Can Make Milk, According to Study


| LAST UPDATE 12/11/2022

By Daria Appleby
Ants Milk Scientific Discovery
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Ants are one of the most common insects in mankind. While being a part of the Formicidae family, along with wasps and bees, they contribute highly to our ecosystem. Considering they have been the center of primary research and fascination, the latest discovery has taken scientists back by major surprise.

Ants play a vital role in the environment. Although they lack vital organs, such as lungs and ears, they act as farmers and transport water and oxygen into the soil to reach plant roots, contributing to sprout growth. Not to mention, the 25mm insects have superhuman strength. Due to their high accessibility, scientists have gone to great lengths to research their purpose, and according to National Geographic, scientists have dubbed them as "one superorganism." Daniel Kronauer, a myrmecologist at Rockefeller University in New York, says, "They don't move, they don't eat, they don't do anything that's obvious amid all the hubbub going on in the colony." However, a new discovery development has claimed, "their developing bodies make a milk-like substance that provides important nutrients to the rest of the colony. And not just in one species, but in at least one species in each of five major ant subfamilies."

Ants Milk Scientific Discovery
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This bizarre news has never been established before, considering the years and centuries scientists have studied ants. The milk-resembled liquid was discovered by Oril Snir, a postdoctoral fellow who only started working with ants when she joined the Kronauer lab. Kronauer says, "people have studied ants for a hundred years, so what is [Snir] talking about?" Typically with ants, the pupae and larvae move around or combine together. Instead, Snir proposed to watch the pupae in "isolation," testing the right temperature and humidity level until something happens. Before they knew it, the pupae, the transformation between immature and mature stages, were producing a lot of liquid. Snir says there was so much liquid "the ants were drowning in it." They questioned whether this was the result of controlled conditions or simply something that had gone unnoticed. So, Snir "injected blue food dye" and put the bluish pupae back in the colony. Results from this showed the "adult ants removing the liquid from the pupae and swallowing it," while the young larvae were "feeding on the liquid; they turned blue as well." This scientific revelation was approved by a worldwide community of myrmecologists.

Overall, the chemical analysis of the liquid proved ants have more advanced functions than we thought. This includes the release of essential amino acids, vital carbohydrates, and vitamins which "recycle these nutritional liquids." Kronauer and Snir suggest, "this makes ants in different life stages depend on each other... It's a kind of social glue that keeps them together." What a fascinating group of insects!

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