Ants change their behavior in the face of disease to avoid outbreaks

Ants change their behavior in the face of disease to avoid outbreak

High population density, as well as frequent and close contact between individuals, contribute to the rapid spread of the diseaseob. When an outbreak occurs, doctors and authorities look for the fastest and best way to stop the spread of the disease, while allowing society to continue to function.

Mrowkami have confronted the same problem for millions of years. One species ofoin mrowek – The common wholesaler (Lasius Niger) has developed a sophisticated response thatora perhaps the pomoc develop new and effective ways to control the diseaseob.

Organization of the anthill

Research conducted at the Institute of Science and Technology near Vienna, Austria, with the support of theoThe study, conducted in collaboration with researchers at the University of Lausanne, was published in the journal „Science”.

The colony of mrowek rodiffers in the way it is organized from large human concentrations. MroThe ants do not have random interactions with other colony members. They are organized according to their age and tasks, ktore performing. While young mrowki, the so-called "nurses", take care of precious offspring in the center of the colony, while older workers gather food outside the anthill. It is these mroThese animals are more likely to be exposed to pathogens.

To protect their colonies, mrowks have developed defense mechanisms tailored to their social organization. When mrowks going outside the anthill to forage get sick, change their behavior toward healthy membersoin the colony. But in healthy mrowek researchers have also observed a change in behavior toward infected matesow. Such a change is particularlyolnie valuable for protecting the most important and vulnerable membersoin the colony.

Prevent an epidemic

The scientists in their study tagged mrowki with QR codes to track interactions between mrowkach, detailedolnie observing their behavior during the spread of the disease. In the first experiment, they placed markings on 2266 mrowek. Using cameras, scientists were able to track and measure the movement and position of each mrowks and their social interactions.

10 percent. Workers were then exposed to spores of the fungusow, whichore easily spread by contact. Porown the comparison of mr coloniesowek before and after exposure to the pathogen showed that mrowki quickly detect the presence of the sporeoin the mushroomow and change their behavior so as to strengthen already existing defenses.

The researchers observed that mrowki divide into subgroups in the face of disease threat, reducing the risk of spreading the pathogen.

– Mrowki are changing the wayob, how they interact and with whom they interact,” explained Sylvia Cremer of the Institute of Science and Technology near Vienna, adding that individuals begin to interact more frequently in mrod task subgroups – food gatherers with gatherers, "nurses” z "nurses” etc. The reaction was evident throughout the colony. RoAlso individuals thatore themselves did not come into contact with spores, they changed their behavior.

– This is the first scientific study thatore shows that insect society is able to actively change its organization to reduce the spread of diseaseob – said Laurent Keller of the University of Lausanne.

Protect krolowa

With sophisticated tools, the researchers were able to accurately determine the number of sporesow that an individual has adopted. Changing the way in which mrowks interacted changed spore transfer patternsow. Only the first few individualsow received a high dose of a pathogen, which could cause disease. The change in behavior resulted in more mrowek received a low dose of.

– The pathogen spreads to many individuals, and immune systems mrowki did very well with its lower level of. Importantly, they were preserved in the form of immunological memory, Cremer pointed out.

Analysis of the behavior of mrowek showed roalso that the entire colony protects a particularolionally important individuals. Krolowa, the so-called. „nurses” and young worker bees, whichore still able to contribute many hours of work to the colony, they were protected and received the lowest dose of the pathogen. – The most valuable individuals must survive – explained Cremer.

In the second experiment, researchers tested how pathogen load 24 hours after exposure correlates with death from disease. – We estimated the spore loadoin the fungus for each individual mrowki, based on its interactions with other mrowkami in the first 24 hours after exposure to a pathogen. Mrowki with a high predicted payload sporeow were more likely to die nine days after exposure than mrowki with low load. Death has taken the biggest toll among theod workers going outside the anthill in search of food,” acknowledged Nathalie Stroeymeyt of the University of Lausanne, wspopublication author.

Howob mrowki wspolnie dealing with problems such as epidemic risk can give insight into the ogolne principles of disease dynamicsob? – Social interactions are pathways thatorym diseases travel. They determine howob epidemics can spread. Basic research on mrowkami can help usoc in a deeper understanding of the processoin epidemiological, ktore may be relevant roalso in other social groups – emphasized Cremer.