(ORDO NEWS) — Fire ants are an extremely dangerous invasive species that pose a deadly threat to native animal species.
However, some lizards have learned to take advantage of this neighborhood: they eat poisonous insects to prepare their bodies for their bites.
Fire ants have taken over the entire southeastern United States and continue to spread, causing great damage to the local fauna.
The pain from a fire ant’s sting is comparable to the pain of a burn (hence their name), and in some cases the attack of these insects poses a mortal threat even to humans.
How do smaller animals cope with ants, forced to share their habitat with them?
Fence iguanas ( Sceloporus ) are not naturally immune to ant stings (massive insect attacks can paralyze or kill a reptile), but they have learned to resist them by eating ants.
To test how the lizards’ immune systems adapt to fire ant venom, the researchers fed the lizards dead fire ants for three weeks or allowed live insects to sting them.
It turned out that eating dead ants prepared the immune system of lizards for poisoning: the concentration of basophils increased in their blood and substances were produced that bind the poison molecules, preventing it from negatively affecting the body.
Meanwhile, in lizards, which were only stung by ants, such changes in the immune system were not observed even after repeated collisions with ants.
In other words, in order to learn to survive side by side with dangerous insects, animals need to start eating them and prepare the body for inevitable poisoning.
In this way, animals can adapt to survive alongside invasive species , although fence iguanas are a rare example of a fire ant predator.
Unfortunately, one can hardly hope that these reptiles will be able to contain the spread of ants. So in the fight against dangerous insects, a person will have to rely only on himself.
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