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Ants Do Not Show 'Aging', Study

Update Date: Feb 09, 2016 03:53 PM EST
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Now we are not the only species to get affected by senescence, or the "natural course of aging". Only some species avoid this process, and scientists from Boston University point out that minor workers from the ant species Pheidole dentate can be added to this exalted list.

These P. dentate minor workers, which can be kept alive for up to 140 days in the laboratory, never display signs of ageing before they die. But due to their social structure and behaviour, they seem to present an interesting study. Scientists are trying to get an insight into the nature of humans too.

"I don't want to make any claims that the ant brains are just like human brains because of course they're very different," Ysabel Giraldo, lead author on the paper, said in a press release. "But when we observe social insect behavior, there's something that is attractive and interesting because we think, well, maybe this parallels something about our own social organization."

"By looking at social insects, maybe we can learn something about how social interactions shape behavior or neurobiology that we can't learn in a solitary system," she added.

Strangely, the ants did not only not show aging behaviour, but even improved in some abilities, such as the skill to follow pheromone trails. Moreover, their activity improved with age, though scientists are flummoxed as to the cause.

"We had a lot of conversations about what is going on. And the short answer is that there's a lot more research to do," Giraldo said, adding that it could stem from the fact that advanced social organization leads to an increase in the efficiency and resiliency of their brains or their low-oxygen living conditions.

"It's not one simple answer," she said.

Still, their behavioral development and the aging in the brains of these social insects might help us to get an insight into to field of senescence.

The findings were published in the Jan. 6,2016 issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Academy B.

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