Ants duped to raise butterflies

2009-02-06 14:25
Washington - Butterflies can seem friendly and harmless. But at least one type has learned to raise its young as parasites, tricking ants into feeding it and giving special treatment.

The pupae of the European butterfly Maculina rebeli exude a scent that mimics the ants and make themselves at home inside the ant nest. Once they become a caterpillar they even beg for food like ant larvae, researchers report in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

But, not content just to be fed, the butterflies even manage to demand special treatment, Jeremy A Thomas of Britain's University of Oxford and colleagues report.

It turns out that ant queens make subtle sounds that signal their special status to worker ants.

The caterpillars have learned to mimic those sounds, the researchers say, earning high enough status to be rescued before others if the nest is disturbed.

In times of food shortage, nurse ants have been known to kill their own larvae and feed them to the caterpillars pretending to be queen ants, they added.

In nature, the real ant queen and the caterpillar keep to different parts of the ant colony and would not encounter one another, the report said.

But in an experiment, a butterfly pupa pretending to be an ant queen was placed in a chamber with worker ants and four real ant queens.

The ant queens began to attack and bite the caterpillar, but the workers intervened, biting and stinging their own queens, which they then pulled to a far corner of the chamber while other workers attended the pupa.

- AP
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Deal of the week!

Petrol generators from R1399, save up to R350. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Pampers!

Save 30% when you buy 3 or more selected pampers products. While stocks last. Shop now!

This week only - 30% off books!

Get 30% off when you buy 2 or more books. Many titles to choose from. While stocks last. Shop now!

New range of Samsung smartphones!

Samsung Galaxy A3, A5 and Alpha now available at kalahari.com. while stocks last. Shop now!

Buy 3 eBooks & only pay for 2!

The cheapest of the 3 titles will be free. Many more titles to choose from. While stocks last. Shop now!

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You are very people sensitive today and there is a tendency to put too much energy on service and outer obligations. The balance...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.