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Ant Intrigue

Despite what you may think, ants' lives are full of intrigue. Take slave-making ants. They invade other ants' nests, kill some of the adults, and then steal the larvae and take them back to their own nests.

The larvae learn who they belong to by smell, so the slave-making ants get them while they're young so they can turn them into slave-making workers who then go off to raid other colonies.

There's also an ant species called Temnothorax minutissimus that is all queens and no workers. Talk about wacky hijinx. Usually, the queens need workers to forage for food and do general ant chores. That's why this extremely rare species baffles scientists.

Like slave-making ants, these ants are parasites that infiltrate other ants' colonies. But unlike slave- making ants, the Temnothorax minutissimus queens somehow do so without killing the host queen and without all the bloodshed. And for some reason, the hosts put up with it and rear the visiting queens' eggs along with their own.

Many parasitic relationships are harmful to the hosts, like rabies or malaria and anthrax. So studying T. minutissimus and their interactions with their hosts could give scientists a fuller understanding of parasite- host interaction.

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