Do Ants Take Prisoners?

Whether or not ants take prisoners is a controversial topic. Some species are brutal and vicious. Others are parasites. Despite these differences, researchers have identified two species that specialize in slave-making.

The two species are Temnothorax longispinosus and Harpagoxenus americanus. Both species are found in mixed forests on the east coast of the United States. They have colonies that can occupy several nests. The colonies also double up on queens.

Both species of slave-making ants attack and raid colonies. The Temnothorax colonies kill two-thirds of the colony’s brood. The Harpagoxenus americanus raids only kill a few of their host’s adults.

Researchers also discovered that the ants’ bodies had gnaw marks on their abdomens. They thought that the ants had cannibalized their dead comrades.

The scientists collected 150 dead ants from ant mounds and found that 93% of the ants had gnaw marks. They also found that two-thirds of the pupae had died. They also found that the mortality rate was higher for pupae that contained a queen.

Researchers were intrigued by the fact that these two species were able to attack and raid a colony. They also found that the ants did not know they were slaves. These slave-making ants turn the babies of an enemy species into mindless automatron workers.

Researchers believe that this is a part of a collective decision making process. The ants may be acting in revenge against an oppressor. They also believe that the ants in the bunker were cannibalizing their dead comrades.