queen ants run on insulin

VSAmong social insects, queens seem to defy the most basic laws of biology. Genetics first. Whether they are bees, wasps, termites or ants, sovereigns display a size, a longevity, a way of life, an immunity that differ in every way from their congeners, even though they have an identical genome. Admittedly, everything is not in the DNA, it is well known today. But from there to live 30 years, like certain queen ants, when the commoners do not spend the year, constitutes a serious mystery.

Especially since in passing, our crowned heads violate another fairly universal rule, namely that between living old or reproducing abundantly, you have to choose. Generating requires energy, lasting also. So the more species lay, the faster they die. And conversely, could remind us of killer whales and elephants. How then can we understand that the queen ants mentioned above can lay a million eggs when their twins produce none?

Of course, their diet is different. Like bees with royal jelly, sovereign ants overconsume fats and proteins. But studies on mice as on men have shown that such a diet has never favored access to old age. Many researchers have therefore issued and tested other hypotheses. The reduced rhythm of life of queens, their underexposure to pathogens, an overexpression of defense genes against oxidative stress or those involved in DNA repair have been advanced, recalls Audrey Dussutour, research director at the CNRS and specialist in ants. But nothing entirely convincing.

Among the jumping ants of South India, “the workers live 7 months, the queens 5 years” Claude Desplan, professor at NYU

In the review Sciencean American team proposes a lead that the French researcher considers ” very serious “ : the role of insulin. New York University (NYU) biologists wanted to understand how queens metabolize this hormone, which is as valuable for reproduction as it is harmful, in the event of an excess, for longevity. For this, they took advantage of the peculiarities of the species Harpegnathos saltator, the South Indian jumping ant. “The workers live 7 months, the queens 5 yearssummarizes Claude Desplan, professor at NYU and coordinator of the study. The males live for a week or two and die after delivering their sperm. » Above all, when a queen dies, she is replaced by three or four of her congeners, “pseudo-queens” or gamergates. They are a little less efficient than the original, live an average of four years, but offer the advantage of being able to be produced in the laboratory…

You have 27.59% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.

Leave a Comment