Magazine article Science News

Slave-Making Ants Rob Cradle

Magazine article Science News

Slave-Making Ants Rob Cradle

Article excerpt

Driven by hunger and guided by the sun, swarms of red western ants indugle in daring kidnapping raids against a neighboring species. So reports Howard topoff, a psychologist at Hunter College in New York City, who has been analyzing the behavior of the western slave-making ant, Polyergus breviceps, in an Arizona mountain desert.

These ants are dependent for survival on their slaves, a related species Formica gnava. The slaves are captured young, as pupae, and they emerge as adults in the slave-makers' nest. The slaves forage, defend the nest and feed and groom their masters. If the colony relocates, they carry the slave-makers one by one to the new site. A colony of 3,000 slave-making ants may have more than 6,000 slaves.

Topoff has observed the events leading to the capture of pupae. First, scouts search for Formica nests. A successful scout returns to its colony and uses tactile and chemical means to recruit raiders. …

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