Hole-plugging ants let armies walk all over them 兵蟻以身填洞 讓同伴快速通過

Thu, Jun 07, 2007 - Page 17

When a rampaging column of 200,000 army ants hauling prey encounters a gaping pothole, volunteers bridge it with their bodies so that comrades can walk over them at full speed until the day's work is done, according to a new study.

And if the road-repairing ants — which can vary in size by a factor of five — are too small or too big for the job, others will keeping plugging away until a perfect match between insect and hole is found.

The study offers "rare quantitative evidence that extreme specialization" among a sturdy few with a lot of backbone can improve the performance of a majority, conclude Scott Powell and Nigel Franks, biologists at the University of Bristol.

The researchers observed the species Eciton burchellii — better known as army ants — in Panama, and then created a series of artificial, hole-ridden highways to see how the insects would adapt.

They also measured gains in productivity, calculating that the self-sacrificing behavior of a few good ants "results in a clear net gain in daily prey intake for the colony."

If 7,500 worker ants in a typical "trail" — a foraging column which can be several meters wide — pitch in for hole-plugging duty, the foraging party can increase its daily intake of goodies by up to 26 percent, according the study, to be published in June in the British journal Animal Behavior.(AFP)

一項新研究指出,當二十萬隻快速搬運食物的兵蟻軍團遇上道路坑洞時,自願者會用身體搭橋,讓同伴踩在牠們身上快速通行,直到一天工作結束為止。

假如填路面的螞蟻(大小可差到五倍)體型太小或太大,其他螞蟻就會努力跑來填洞,直到找到契合洞口的螞蟻為止。

布里斯托大學生物學教授史考特.鮑威爾與奈吉爾.法蘭克斯結論說,這份研究提供了「相當專精的稀有數量學證據」︰堅強少數者的鼎力支持可以增進多數的表現。

研究人員觀察巴拿馬的「Eciton burchellii」螞蟻(俗稱兵蟻),再修築一長串坑坑洞洞的人造路面,看螞蟻如何適應。

研究人員也統計了食物的增加量,推斷少數善良螞蟻的自我犧牲,「明顯增加了蟻群一日的補 食量」。

這份發表在英國《動物行為月刊》六月號的研究指出,典型的螞蟻搜尋兵團「軍容」可寬達好幾公尺,假如七千五百隻工蟻都奮力補洞,這支運補大隊一天就可增加26%的食物。

(法新社/翻譯︰賴美君)