In the human world, especially in this modern day and age, women and men who cheat on their partners are punished pretty severely. They are often ostracized from general society, stoned in the Arab world, physically hurt by scorned partners, and even murdered in some cases. Cheating doesn’t pay. But, compared to ant cheaters, this treatment is child’s play. Ants don’t tolerate cheaters for a second. It messes with the gene pool of the colony, and, therefore, is punishable by death.
Researchers recently performed a study where they applied a synthetic chemical to ants in a colony with a queen and then compared their treatment to the ants covered in the same synthetic chemical in a colony without a queen. The chemical mimics the chemicals produced by fertile ants when they are mating. The ants covered in the chemical in the colony run by a queen were brutally attacked by the rest of the colony as soon as they were sniffed out. These deceitful ants were grabbed, held down and bitten ruthlessly by their own siblings in the colony. However, in the colony without a queen the cheating ants were left alone, free to reproduce as much as they pleased.
The scientists believe that this “reproductive policing” plays a large role in upholding harmony in the ant colony.
What do you think of this rather severe policing of reproduction? Do you know of any other insect species that uses this kind of reproductive control practice?