The research team looked at the consequences of social isolation in the case of ants of the species Temnothorax nylanderi. These ants inhabit cavities in acorns and sticks on the ground in European forests, forming colonies of a few dozen workers. Young workers engaged in brood care were taken singly from 14 colonies and kept in isolation for varying lengths of time, from one hour to a maximum of 28 days. The study was conducted between January and March 2019 and highlighted three particular aspects in which changes were observed. After the end of their isolation, the workers were less interested in their adult colony mates, but the length of time they spent in brood contact increased; they also spent less time grooming themselves. […] While the study revealed significant changes in the behaviors of the isolated insects, its findings with regard to gene activity were even more striking: Many genes related to immune system function and stress response were downregulated. In other words, these genes were less active. “This finding is consistent with studies on other social animals that demonstrated a weakening of the immune system after isolation,” said Professor Inon Scharf. The study has been published in the journal Molecular Ecology.
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