Sneaky slaves

Ant slaves are generally considered as poor helpless sods, being unable to do anything about their sad situation. However, this turns out to not always be the case!

Enslaved Temnothorax workers rebel against their slavers in a unique and sneaky way. Instead of fighting against their slavers directly, they instead destroy up to two thirds of the female slaver eggs and pupae. By doing this, the slavers produce much less queens and workers than they normally would, and thus have much less of an effect on surrounding colonies of Temnothorax.

Temnothorax slaves (light brown) together with their slavers. Picture by Alex Wild

Temnothorax slaves (light brown) together with their slavers. Picture by Alex Wild

In other words, by making sure their slavers are less successful, the slaves make sure that other colonies around them have less chance to be enslaved or raided. Since many of these surrounding colonies are family of the slaves, the slaves are still indirectly passing on their genes to the next generation.

Source:
Achenbach & Foitzik (2009) First evidence for slave rebellion: enslaved ant workers systematically kill the brood of their social parasite Protomognathus americanus. Evolution 63: 1068-1075

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