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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ant Mega-Colony Takes Over The World

Scientists have discovered a mega-colony of ants that have colonised much of the world.

Originally from South America, the Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) have been introduced to all continents apart from Antarctica.

These introduced Argentine ants are renowned for forming large colonies, and for becoming a significant pest, attacking native animals and crops.

In Europe, one vast colony of Argentine ants is thought to stretch for 6,000km (3,700 miles) along the Mediterranean coast, while another in the US, known as the "Californian large", extends over 900km (560 miles) along the coast of California. A third huge colony exists on the west coast of Japan.

While ants are usually highly territorial, those living within each super-colony are tolerant of one another, even if they live tens or hundreds of kilometres apart.Each super-colony, however, was thought to be quite distinct.

But it now appears that billions of Argentine ants around the world all actually belong to one single global mega-colony.

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