In this type of ant colony, females other than the ueen can reproduce. If she dies, there is a struggle to succeed her and those who come out on top (gamergates) start laying eggs. Meanwhile, their brains shrink:
Penick and his colleagues found that when the ants take on the role of gamergate, their brains shrink by 19% on average. The shrinkage likely happens so that they can save energy to focus on producing eggs. Hormones trigger additional changes in the ants, including larger ovaries, less venom production and much longer lifespans.
“But what we didn’t know was if they had the capacity to regrow them back to their previous size,” Penick tells NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro on Weekend Edition. “The typical wisdom is that once you lose brain cells, they don’t come back.”James Dubek, Peter Breslow, “The Incredible Shrinking And Growing Brains Of Indian Jumping Ants” at NPR
So they took the gamergates out of the colony and their brains did grow back.
“It tells us that brains are a lot more plastic and have a lot more abilities to change back and forth between their size than we knew,” Penick says. “And ants, their brains have some shared traits with humans, believe it or not. So now we’re looking at digging into some of the genetic and other neural mechanisms that are underlying these brain changes.”James Dubek, Peter Breslow, “The Incredible Shrinking And Growing Brains Of Indian Jumping Ants” at NPR
The paper is open access. Note: “gamergates” does not refer to gaming. It’s formed from Greek words and means something like “workers with ovaries.”
It’s certainly true that the brain is plastic. but human brains can do more remarkable things than ant brains. People can function with split brains or half a brain or hardly any brain and be intellectually normal. We didn’t know that know that before brain scanning.. For example:
Yes, split brains are weird, but not the way you think. Scientists who dismiss consciousness and free will ignore the fact that the higher faculties of the mind cannot be split even by splitting the brain in half.
Some people think and speak with only half a brain. A new study sheds light on how they do it.
Boy born with 2% of brain does maths, loves science. Noah Wall’s story raises intriguing questions about the relationship between the brain and the mind
Four researchers whose work sheds light on the reality of the mind The brain can be cut in half, but the intellect and will cannot, says Michael Egnor. The intellect and will are metaphysically simple.