Ant Enforcers: To call in punishment, top ant smears rival

8:45am, September 4, 2002

In Brazilian ant colonies where a female has to fight her way to the top, she stays in power through some judicious gang violence, say researchers.

When a Dinoponera quadriceps alpha ant smears a chemical on a challenger, low-ranked workers–probably the alpha's daughters–rush in and subdue the rival, report Thibaud Monnin of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris and his colleagues in the Sept. 5 Nature. Observers had seen bits of the behavior before but hadn't put it together as collusion between the top ant and a gang, according to Monnin.

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