Ant Queens Can Live 500% Longer Than Workers

Ant queens live up to 500% longer than worker ants because of protein that ant queens produce in conjunction with their proficient egg-laying capabilities.

What to Know

  • Ant queens are responsible for all of the reproduction of the ant colony and must eat constantly to produce insulin to fuel their massive egg laying.

  • Insulin causes the ant queen’s ovaries to grow and develop to accommodate egg production, but it also helps create a protein called Imp-L2, which counteracts some of the effects of insulin on their bodies.

  • The two main branches of the insulin signaling pathway (MAPK and Akt) appear to differentially regulate fertility and life span. Increased signaling in one aids reproduction in ant queens, and decreased signaling in the other is consistent with extended longevity.

  • Rather than aging because of laying countless eggs, ant queens can live 500% longer than the average worker because the Imp-L2 protein creates a kind of anti-aging shield.

  • The median life span of a typical worker ant is nearly 8 months, while ant queens can live for more than 3 years; but if the queen is placed in a colony that has an already-established ruler, she’ll revert to being a normal worker, and her life span will be similar to those of workers.

This is a summary of the article, “Insulin Signalling in the Long-lived Reproductive Caste of Ants,” published in Science on September 1, 2022. The full article can be found on science.org.

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