Sunday, March 26, 2023

Climate change makes ants more aggressive

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A research team had ants from Switzerland, Austria, France and Italy fight against each other. Two workers from different neighboring colonies were let loose on each other in a duel. “The aggressiveness of the ants from the warmer areas such as Italy and France was increased many times over compared to the cooler locations in Austria and Switzerland,” said study leader Patrick Karpf in a statement from the University of Innsbruck on Thursday.

In addition to testing aggression in fights, the team performed several genetic and environmental analyses. The nitrogen content in the soil also makes ants more aggressive, the researchers wrote in the study in the journal Science of The Total Environment.

An understanding of the consequences of climate change for the behavior of ants is important because of the central role these animals play in ecosystems. According to the latest estimates, there are around 20 quadrillion ants on earth. Together they weigh more than all wild mammals and birds combined. Nevertheless, studies on ants are sparse.

In the long run, aggressiveness is a disadvantage for ants. “If these combat activities increase, it costs the workers a lot of energy and time,” says Karpf. The energy would then be lacking for the search for food. Other studies have already shown that higher temperatures lead to more aggression, for example for humans, ungulates and voles.

The examined colonies of the ant species Tetramorium alpestre occur at altitudes between 1600 and 2300 meters. In Switzerland, ants were collected from the Julier and Simplon passes. (SDA)

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