100 Million Years Old Amber Shows Two Ant Species Fighting Against Each Other

Posted: Feb 13 2016, 9:54pm CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
100 Million Years Old Amber Shows Two Ant Species Fighting Against Each Other
Two ant species were fighting when they were preserved inside amber. Credit: Grimaldi and P. Barden

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The piece of fossil amber showed that advanced social behavior was present in ancient ants as well.

Researchers have discovered a 100 million year old piece of amber which provides direct evidence for the advanced social behavior of ancient ants.

Two different ant species of prehistoric times were fighting and trying to knock out each other when tree sap covered them entirely and preserved their fossil inside the amber, indicating that ants and termites used to fight for food and territory a long time before what was originally thought.

“Ecologically, advanced sociality is one of the most adaptive features for animals,”said co-author Dave Grimaldi, a curator at the Museum of Natural History. “All ants and termites are social and they are ubiquitous across terrestrial landscapes, with thousands of described species and probably even more that what haven’t yet found.”

>Advance sociality or eusociality is the highest level of organization of animal society which involves cooperation or division of labor into different group within themselves such as protecting the colony or searching for food. The social behavior is observed in a wide range of arthropods from shrimps, beetles and honey bees to ants and termites.

Previous fossil record suggests that eusociality was not more than 20 to 17 million years old but latest discovery indicates that it occurred much earlier in Cretaceous period when dinosaurs were roaming the Earth.

“In the Cretaceous amber we examine, the ants and termites represent the earliest branches of each evolutionary tree and the species are widely different from what their modern relatives look like today.” Phillip Barden, co-author of the study said.

The latest amber fossilized amber, which was discovered in Myanmar, gives a clear idea about how social these creatures were.

In the amber, researchers have found six different types of termite species. Two of which are new to scientists including one that is possibly the largest soldier termite ever found. The Gigantotermes rex termite is about an inch long with its head accounting for half of its body and is engaged in combat with another species.

“We know that wingless solitary relative of ants don’t fight or defend territories against each other species,” said Barden. “But modern ants war all of the time. The behavior of these fossil ants, frozen for 100 million years, resolves any ambiguity regarding sociality and diversity in the earliest ants.”

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