Kissing Ants

Kissing Ants

Kissing Ants
Kissing Ants

Ever the opportunistic photophile, I perchanced upon these foraging major workers of the common weaver ant, Oecophylla smaragdina, locked together in a deep kiss, though even if it does seem like the ants are passionately kissing each other, it serves a whole different purpose altogether.

Ants frequently indulge in this ‘kissing’ action, which in scientific terminology, is called stomodeal trophallaxis, meaning mouth-to-mouth feeding. This way, only a couple of ants have to go out to get food, after which they can pass it around the colony by trophallaxing or ‘kissing’ their hungry sisters. This function has long been known among the ants.

Kissing Ants
Kissing Ants

Recently however, Ms. Casey Hamilton and her co-workers uncovered a whole new function of trophallaxis, whilst observing two separate groups of ants, under laboratory conditions. One group was starved, while the other, well fed. These well fed ants were ‘vaccinated’ against bacteria, having, beside food, a spate of antibacterial substances in their body (also known as anti-microbial peptides).

Trophallaxis occurs once the two groups come together, with the well fed ants sharing food with their hungry sisters.

Kissing Ants
Kissing Ants

Now comes the interesting part. After the hungry ants were fed by their vaccinated sisters, they were exposed to disease causing bacteria. And while these ants should, by all rights, should have succumbed to disease, it appeared they were now more resistant to it than before. This showed that the ants can spread their ‘immunity’ to other individuals while exchanging food.

Pheromones are also exchanged as compounds mixed with food and passed along, when trophallaxis occurs, providing the ants all the information they need about each other’s health and nutrition, including being able to detect which task group their sisters belong to. (e.g. foraging or nest maintenance)

Kissing Ants
Kissing Ants

Reference

EXIF info - Aperture : ƒ/10 | Camera : Canon EOS 5D Mark III | Taken : 6 April, 2014 | Flash fired : yes | Focal length : 100mm | ISO : 100 | Location : 13° 4.0311′ 0″ N 74° 59.7279′ 0″ E | Shutter speed : 1/125s | Images and content Copyright © Krishna Mohan. Please contact me to purchase prints or for image publication license.
EXIF info - Aperture : ƒ/10 | Camera : Canon EOS 5D Mark III | Taken : 6 April, 2014 | Flash fired : yes | Focal length : 100mm | ISO : 100 | Location : 13° 4.0311′ 0″ N 74° 59.7279′ 0″ E | Shutter speed : 1/125s | Images and content Copyright © Krishna Mohan. Please contact me to purchase prints or for image publication license.
EXIF info - Aperture : ƒ/10 | Camera : Canon EOS 5D Mark III | Taken : 6 April, 2014 | Flash fired : yes | Focal length : 100mm | ISO : 100 | Location : 13° 4.0311′ 0″ N 74° 59.7279′ 0″ E | Shutter speed : 1/125s | Images and content Copyright © Krishna Mohan. Please contact me to purchase prints or for image publication license.
EXIF info - Aperture : ƒ/10 | Camera : Canon EOS 5D Mark III | Taken : 6 April, 2014 | Flash fired : yes | Focal length : 100mm | ISO : 100 | Location : 13° 4.0311′ 0″ N 74° 59.7279′ 0″ E | Shutter speed : 1/125s | Images and content Copyright © Krishna Mohan. Please contact me to purchase prints or for image publication license.

1 thought on “Kissing Ants

  1. ಮನುಷ್ಯನ ಅಳತೆಗೋಲು ಎಷ್ಟು ಸಣ್ಣದು (ಬಾಯಿಗೆ ಬಾಯಿ ಮುಟ್ಟಿದ್ದೆಲ್ಲಾ ಕಿಸ್ಸೂಂತ ಕಿಸಿಯುತ್ತೇವೆ), ಪ್ರಕೃತಿ ಎಷ್ಟು ವೈವಿಧ್ಯಮಯ ಎನ್ನುವುದಕ್ಕಿನ್ನೊಂದು ಉದಾಹರಣೆ. [ನಾನು ಕೇಳಿದ ಸಂಗತಿಯನ್ನು ಸೂತ್ರದಲ್ಲಿ ಹೇಳುತ್ತೇನೆ: ಕವಿ “ಸೂರ್ಯೋದಯಕ್ಕೆ ಹಕ್ಕಿಗಳು ಸಂಭ್ರಮಿಸುತ್ತವೆ” ಎಂದ. ಹಕ್ಕಿ ತಜ್ಞ “ಉತ್ತಮ ಬೇಟೆಯ ಸಮಯ” ಎಂದ. ಕೀಟ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನಿ “ಎಂಥ ದುರಂತ” ಅಳುಮುಖಿಯಾದ 🙂 ]

Leave a Comment