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Am Nat. 2008 Nov;172(5):E239-43. doi: 10.1086/591688.

Preemptive defensive self-sacrifice by ant workers.

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Department of Pomology and Apiculture, Agricultural University, 29 Listopada 54, 31-425 Krakow, Poland.


Worker insects altruistically sacrifice their own reproduction to rear nondescendant kin. This sacrifice reaches its most spectacular level in suicidal colony defense. Suicidal defense, such as when the sting of a honeybee worker embeds in a predator and then breaks off, is normally a facultative response. Here we describe the first example of preemptive self-sacrifice in nest defense. In the Brazilian ant Forelius pusillus, the nest entrance is closed at sunset. One to eight workers finish the job from the outside and, in doing so, sacrifice their lives.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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