Ants use their very own acid to disinfect themselves and their stomachs. A workforce from Martin Luther College Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the College of Bayreuth has discovered that formic acid kills dangerous micro organism within the animal’s meals, thereby lowering the chance of illness. On the identical time, the acid considerably influences the ant’s intestinal flora. The brand new research was revealed within the journal eLife.
Formic acid is without doubt one of the easiest natural acids. It’s produced in a particular gland within the stomach of quite a few species of ant. “There was a long-standing assumption that the acid solely served to chase away predators, for instance bugs and birds,” says Dr. Simon Tragust from the Institute of Biology at MLU, who co-led the brand new research alongside Professor Heike Feldhaar from Bayreuth. A few years in the past he was capable of present that ants additionally use the acid in brood care, for instance, to disinfect their brood and forestall the unfold of dangerous fungi.
The brand new research was based mostly on an commentary of the animals’ conduct. “At any time when ants swallow meals or water, they begin cleansing their hindquarters afterwards,” says Tragust. The researcher wished to determine why they try this. “For one factor, the conduct didn’t appear to be linked to digestion, as a result of ants do that even after they’ve solely ingested water,” he provides.
By a number of experiments the workforce was capable of present that ants disinfect themselves on the within. “When the ants had been capable of entry the acid, their probabilities of survival elevated considerably after consuming meals enriched with pathogenic micro organism,” explains Tragust. What’s extra, the helpful impact was not restricted to a person animal. Ants cross meals from their mouth to the mouths to their nestmates. “This can be a main potential supply of an infection,” says Tragust. If the ant passing on the meals has beforehand ingested the acid, the receiving ant had a decrease threat of falling unwell. In response to Tragust, this conduct would possibly cut back the unfold of an infection inside the ant colony.
The outcomes of the brand new research additionally clarify why some ants have only a few micro organism of their digestive tracts; these which might be current are primarily acid-resistant microbes. “Acid swallowing acts as a filter mechanism, structuring the ant’s microbiome,” explains Tragust. Ants are one in all only a handful of animals with extraordinarily acidic stomachs. “In any other case that is solely recognized to happen in people and some different vertebrates,” says Tragust. Not like ants, abdomen acid in people is produced instantly within the abdomen, however the results are the identical: The acid kills germs within the meals and influences the microbiome of the intestine.
By the way, how formic acid exactly works remains to be a thriller, nevertheless it and different natural acids have lengthy been used as components in animal feed to kill dangerous germs.
Reference: “Formicine ants swallow their extremely acidic poison for intestine microbial choice and management” by Simon Tragust, Claudia Herrmann, Jane Häfner, Ronja Braasch, Christina Tilgen, Maria Hoock, Margarita Artemis Milidakis, Roy Gross and Heike Feldhaar, three November 2020, eLife.