Cheating, Corruption Rampant in Ant Society
Secret elite exploits workers with its DNA
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2008 12:00 PM CDT
Leaf Cutter ants transport portions of leaf back to the colony in this undated archival photo.   (Wikimedia Commons)
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(Newser) – A power-mad elite is secretly rigging the system so their offspring rise to power, LiveScience reports. That’s the situation a team of researchers has discovered in ant society—not exactly the epitome of community collaboration once thought. Until now, it appeared that any properly-fed larvae could hatch into a queen, but now researchers have found a secret ant elite, which has evolved a DNA strand more likely to produce ruling offspring.

These “royal” ants make sure they’re rare, which, one researcher said, is “an evolutionary strategy by the cheats to escape suppression by the altruistic masses that they exploit.” If one family produced too many queens “the other ants would notice, and might take action against them,” the researcher said, so these special ants spread their offspring to several colonies to escape detection.