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, 172 (5), E239-43

Preemptive Defensive Self-Sacrifice by Ant Workers

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Preemptive Defensive Self-Sacrifice by Ant Workers

Adam Tofilski et al. Am Nat.

Abstract

Worker insects altruistically sacrifice their own reproduction to rear nondescendant kin. This sacrifice reaches its most spectacular level in suicidal colony defense. Suicidal defense, such as when the sting of a honeybee worker embeds in a predator and then breaks off, is normally a facultative response. Here we describe the first example of preemptive self-sacrifice in nest defense. In the Brazilian ant Forelius pusillus, the nest entrance is closed at sunset. One to eight workers finish the job from the outside and, in doing so, sacrifice their lives.

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