Ants

Loss of flight in worker ants led to one big perk

Turns out, wings take up a lot of space that could otherwise be used for strength.

In an ant colony, only the queen has wings.

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But don’t feel bad for the flightless worker ants — when they lost their wings, they gained strength.

Researchers in Japan used X-rays and 3D scans to study the evolutionary loss of wings in worker ants and its direct connection to evolving superior strength.

Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology

The queen’s wings are powered by muscles that take up about half the space in her tiny thorax, the central segment of her insect body.

Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology

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This means that to acquire the advantageous wings, queen ants (and other flying insects) lose supportive muscles for their heads, legs, and abdomens.

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Once flight disappeared, room opened up in the thorax for these muscles to develop.

Worker ants need to have strong neck muscles to support their heads as they carry food back to the nest or carry eggs when moving nests.

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They need strong abdomen muscles to defend the colony and sting predators.

Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology

The new research will help researchers better understand the inner workings of one of the world’s most common insects.

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Read more animal stories here.

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