How Do Ants Turn Into Beetles?

Hundreds of different species of insects look and behave like ants. They mimic the behaviors of ants, and they even envelop themselves in a waxy coat that provides them with protection. Some species even eat army ant larvae.

Beetles and ants share a common ancestor 105 million years ago. During their time together, the beetle and ant were able to diversify rapidly. However, the selective forces that drive evolution remain uncertain.

Scientists now believe that ants and beetles may be in an evolutionary arms race. Both have evolved in ways that allow them to evade one another’s fierce defenses. While some species have become parasitic, others can ride on the back of larger ants. Using DNA analysis, scientists have been able to trace the beetle and ant’s evolutionary history.

Daniel Kronauer, an evolutionary biologist at Rockefeller University in New York, studied myrmecophile beetles that live inside army ant nests. These beetles have evolved from a fight or flight response to true social engagement. The beetle must now mimic the appearance and behaviors of army ants in order to gain acceptance.

Researchers have discovered a remarkable trick that beetles use to trick ants into raising young. They grow large antennae that have glands, which resemble ant body parts. They also mimic ants’ queen calls. In addition, they release chemicals that resemble ant odors.

They also produce a chemical called quinone that helps them defend themselves against aggressive ants. It also allows them to groom ants to get their chemicals.