London: Scientists have created what they claim are "Frankenstein" ants, called "supersoldiers", after they discovered a unique way to activate genes in normal ants
that turn them into creatures with gigantic heads and jaws.
An Asian-origin researcher-led team at McGill University in Canada says that the monster ants, which use their size to protect the entrance to their nests, are a throwback to their ancestors that lived millions of years ago.
Supersoldier ants can be born naturally but are rare. They breed in the deserts of American and Mexico where they have evolved to protect their colony from invading ants.
But the man-made specimens were created from ordinary Pheidole morrisi ants, which contain genetic tools necessary to develop into supersoldier ants, British newspaper `The
Daily Telegraph` reported.
In fact, the scientists used a special hormone on the larvae of ordinary worker ants to create the monster ants. "We uncovered an ancestral development potential to produce a novel supersoldier subcaste that has been retained throughout a hyperdiverse ant genus that evolved 35 to 60 million years ago," Dr Rajendhran Rajakumar, who led the team,
was quoted as saying.
The results suggest that holding on to ancestral development tool kits may play an important role in evolving new physical traits, say the scientists whose findings have
been published in the `Science` journal.