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Ants socialized and fought 100 mya

antfight preserved in amber/Phillip Barden

From ScienceDaily:

“That’s a trait of ants,” Barden said. “Many ant species do that all the time. They’re always warring with either other individuals of the same species from different colonies or with different species.”

The fighting ants and others trapped in ancient Burmese amber from Myanmar are among the earliest known ants.

“These early ants belong to lineages distinct from modern ants,” he said. “That is, they aren’t necessarily the direct ancestors of modern ants. They’re kind of their own branch doing their own thing.”

The study also provides strong evidence that ancient ants — like modern ants — were social, according to Barden, who began a two-year, National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in biology at Rutgers-Newark in September. More.

So the earliest known ants behaved the way modern ants do. There was no evolution of behaviour.

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“Basically in the same deposit, we found evidence of termite sociality and we think that termites maintained the first societies, so the oldest social groups were actually termites,” Barden said. But ants weren’t about to concede any turf to termites, if they could help it.

“Ants and termites, we think, warred throughout the last 100 million years or so,” he said. “Ants were always trying to take advantage of termites.”

Worse, the public social service in the insect world are really, really broken…

See also: Stasis: Life goes on but evolution does not happen


Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain?

Abstract: cross terrestrial ecosystems, modern ants are ubiquitous. As many as 94 out of every 100 individual arthropods in rainforests are ants [ 1 ], and they constitute up to 15% of animal biomass in the Amazon [ 2, 3 ]. Moreover, ants are pervasive agents of natural selection as over 10,000 arthropod species are specialized inquilines or myrmecomorphs living among ants or defending themselves through mimicry [ 4, 5 ]. Such impact is traditionally explained by sociality: ants are the first major group of ground-dwelling predatory insects to become eusocial [ 3 ], increasing efficiency of tasks and establishing competitive superiority over solitary species [ 6, 7 ]. A wealth of specimens from rich deposits of 99 million-year-old Burmese amber resolves ambiguity regarding sociality and diversity in the earliest ants. The stem-group genus Gerontoformica maintained distinct reproductive castes including morphotypes unknown in solitary aculeate (stinging) wasps, providing insight into early behavior. We present rare aggregations of workers, indicating group recruitment as well as an instance of interspecific combat; such aggression is a social feature of modern ants. Two species and an unusual new genus are described, further expanding the remarkable diversity of early ants. Stem-group ants are recovered as a paraphyletic assemblage at the base of modern lineages varying greatly in size, form, and mouthpart structure, interpreted here as an adaptive radiation. Though Cretaceous stem-group ants were eusocial and adaptively diverse, we hypothesize that their extinction resulted from the rise of competitively superior crown-group taxa that today form massive colonies, consistent with Wilson and Hölldobler’s concept of “dynastic succession.” (paywall) – Phillip Barden, David A. Grimaldi. Adaptive Radiation in Socially Advanced Stem-Group Ants from the Cretaceous. Current Biology, February 2016 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.12.060

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