Ants are hardworking and have been found to sacrifice for their colony. For example, worker ants sacrifice their reproductive chances for the colony queen to ensure that the colony survives and gets expanded. However, such acts did not involved suicidal intentions or sacrificial acts without an immediate threat to the colony. But recently, scientists have found an ant that sacrifices its life even without an immediate threat present and suicidal intentions were discovered in such ants in attempt to protect the colony.
The Brazilian ant, Forelius pusillus, takes “self sacrifice to a whole new level”, by sacrificing their lives to protect the colony. Upon sunset, the Brazilian ants cover their entrance with sand and some of these Brazilian ants would stay outside to complete the job making sure their colony is safe. Due to the covered entrance after the job is completed, these ants cannot reenter the nest and dies before the next morning. It was also mentioned that the ants were on a suicidal mission and deliberately stayed outside to help hid the nest for the night. It still remains as a puzzle today what are these ants guarding against in the night, however, it was speculated that they might be protecting themselves from large roaming colonies of army ants.
Although altruism in ants are not new in science today, it really impresses me in how much these ants are willing to sacrifice for their colony.
1. “Last Ant Standing” by Charles Choi, September 23 2008. URL: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2008/09/23-01.html (accessed on 6th Apr 2010)
2. “Evolving Altruism? Ants Sacrifice Selves to Protect Colony” by Austin Cline, October 9, 2008. URL: http://atheism.about.com/b/2008/10/09/evolving-altruism-ants-sacrifice-selves-to-protect-colony.htm (accessed on 6th Apr 2010)
3. Hölldobler, B., and Wilson, E.O. (1990). the ANTS. Bel knap Press of Harvard University