A clip from the documentary “Ants: Nature’s Secret Power“:


  1. #1 Ted C. MacRae
    May 23, 2010

    Very interesting clip. However, the pedant in me always cringes when I hear the plural of “larva” pronounced as “larvi.”

  2. #2 andrew
    May 23, 2010

    Wow, I love that video.

    What is the pedigree for the bulldog ants colonies? If the workers are laying eggs to feed the queen’s eggs, would you expect the workers to be more related(.75)?

  3. #3 ihateaphids
    May 23, 2010

    thaz pretty coooooool

  4. #4 Warren
    May 23, 2010

    Great clip Al! Waiting for the attack on the phrase “primitive traits”…

  5. #5 andrew
    May 24, 2010

    What’s wrong with using “primitive traits”?

  6. #6 James C. Trager
    May 24, 2010

    Great movie, Alex!

    It sounds a bit funny to me, too, Ted, but the pedant in me feels compelled to remind the readers here that we English speakers are the absolute masters of vowel butchery (in other languages). We can’t help it perhaps, since the already rather complex vowel system of Middle English has undergone a tremendous amount of phonological evolution into the plethora of individual vowel phonemes and of vocal renditions of spelling that we have today.

    Indeed, if we want to be true to the Latin origins, the hypothetical word “larvi” would (if it existed) be pronounced soemthign like /lar-vee/ and “larvae” SHOULD be pronounced /lar-vye/, just the opposite of how many of us would say them. Unfortunately, Borror and DeLong, and our botany professors, and others taught us all a complicated and unwieldy pronunciation system that is highly at variance with anything like the sounds of Latin (as reconstructed by linguists). We’d be a lot closer (though still off in some ways) if we pronounced Latin names as though they were Italian, or a bit less so if like Spanish, but either way, we would be more easily understood by biologists who are speakers of virtually all other languages, when conversing with them about our and their creatures of study.

  7. #7 Bob Carlson
    May 24, 2010

    A friend to whom I forwarded this posting pointed out that in the discussion of the bulldog ants it was mentioned that the workers lay eggs that are “not fertile.” In Hymenoptera, males are usually produced from eggs that that haven’t been fertilized. If the eggs produced by the bulldog workers aren’t eaten, will they produce males? If not, shouldn’t they be called pseudoeggs?

  8. #8 andrew
    May 24, 2010


    I have heard biologists refer to these eggs as “trophic eggs”.

    One of the things I’m wondering is if we are suspecting that kin selection is playing a role here then the workers “want” to feed their eggs because they are investing in a sister which is 75% related(if they preferentially feed sisters and not brothers). If the trophic eggs produce males, they are 50% related to the worker.

  9. #9 Bob Carlson
    May 24, 2010

    Trophic eggs appears to be the accepted term given that there is even a Trophic Egg Wikipedia! Evidently, in Atta sexdens trophic eggs are produced by the queen.

  10. #10 Alex Wild
    May 24, 2010

    A better analogy to trophic eggs might be lactation. These “eggs” are not only infertile but inviable, morphologically distinct from reproductive eggs. They’re more like little packets of nutrients.

  11. #11 Bob Carlson
    May 24, 2010

    How widespread is the strategy of inviable eggs in the family?

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