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Picture of the Day

Leafcutter ants' success due to more than crop selection

A complex genetic analysis has biologists re-evaluating some long-held beliefs about the way societies evolved following the invention of agriculture -- by six-legged farmers. Like humans, leafcutter ants grow crops, and like humans, farming allows the ants to produce enough food to support millions of individuals who work at specialized jobs. But while people invented agriculture at the dawn of civilization about 10,000 years ago, leafcutters began cultivating massive subterranean fungus gardens more than 10 million years ago. In a study published this week, biologists analyzed genetic data from samples collected at leafcutter nests throughout South America, Central America and North America and concluded that the ants originated in South America and owe their success to something more than their choice of crops.

Visit Website | Image credit: Brandon Martin/Rice University