back to article Boffins hack evolution, create SUPERSOLDIER ANTS

Researchers in Canada have created a new type of supersoldier ant by activating genetic material from long-dead forms of life. The team, led by professor Ehab Abouheif of the Department of Biology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, were studying ants from the genus pheidole. There are nearly 1,200 diferent species …


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  1. Turtle

    "Supersoldier Ant"?

    "Supersoldier Ant"?

    Well if they want to sell the rights to a movie producer or a video game company, they are going to have to do a lot better than THAT.

    1. Robin Bradshaw

      @Turtle "How about attack of the Chickenosaurus" do you think that will sell better?

      1. Turtle

        A chicken is a chicken...

        A chicken is a chicken. No matter what you do to it.

  2. Lars Silver badge


    Perhaps we could create the Superman and the Batman too.

  3. Havin_it

    Super duper

    Eh, Forgive me if I'm missing something (my foot-in-mouth sense is tingling a bit here, I admit), but are these not what we've generally been calling, um, soldier ants? Where does the "super" bit come in? Good ol' churnalistic hyperbole?

    Icon because this sounds like the prequel to Phase IV, although it might be worth it if we get aurochs steaks...

    1. Chris 244


      They exist as a separate caste alongside soldier ants, and only in some ant species (e.g. Pheidole rhea).

    2. Ru


      To quote the article:

      "The surprise came when they tried a similar technique with species that don’t normally produce such heavy soldiers. They found that they could still create supersoldiers in these species"

  4. g e

    Then one escapes.l..

    Breeds, make even superer soldier ants that eventually mutate into the Locust Horde or the Chimera and ransacks the world..

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Better polish my Auger then

      Or my Bullseye!

    2. soddit112

      or mutates to breathe fire after the nuclear apocalypse, and then get stomped all over for petty kill-quests by a kid from Vault 101

    3. ArmanX

      Fun fact:

      Soldier ants (and indeed, any ants but the queen and a few males) are sterile. No worries about them reproducing.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Call in the pest control, a quick squirt with 'death to ants' and they won't be so super for long.

  6. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Bigger, more ferocious ants

    Yes, that's precisely what we need more of.

    If they want to play with extinct beasties can't they go back to their test tubes and rustle up a dinosaur?

    1. ArmanX

      Don't tempt them!

      Already, scientists are trying to bring back the aurocs - rather like cattle, except for being huge and bloodthirsty. Next thing you know, there will be warning about "escaped creatures" and "apocalypse monkeys" and such.

  7. DN4


    Whoever had the bright idea of making the first image `smaller' by setting width= and height= in HTML deserves to be eaten by these ants.

    1. Eddy Ito


      A "click to enlarge" would have sufficed for anyone wanting the full 8 megapixels.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...and shortly after, the bipeds went extinct

    It is supremely ironic that, in tinkering with natural forces that they did not fully understand, the biped scientists brought about the downfall of their own species.

  9. Neil Barnes Silver badge


    I'm sure we got rid of them for a reason! Larger and more aggressive? Just the thing to meet on a nice summer's picnic... they can keep the aggressive ants with the oversized company.

    Ah, yes, the one with the 'Nippon' ant killer in the pocket, thanks.

  10. Gary Bickford

    So all those movies about giant mutant beasts running amok ...

    were documentaries !! ??? !!

    1. Armando 123

      I wonder if this research was sponsored by the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 guys ...

  11. Graham Marsden

    I just want to say...


    1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Better to say...

      I for one welcome our new insect overlords...

    2. Peter Stone

      I prefer Phase IV

  12. Bush_rat

    Oh no.....

    I sense a troll comment about messing with nature......

  13. tw@tpanda

    Genetically engineered ants?

    What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      In other news

      A baby has been reported missing after witnesses saw what they describe as a "velociantor" running through a mall with a blue blanket in its maw.

      Tune in for the special at 7, after your daily Homeland Security security bulletin.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Oh no....

    Better call the Earth Defence Force

  15. jungle_jim
    Thumb Down

    sod this!


  16. JimC

    When it comes to working out how to turn on

    now unused genetic capabilities then I want the one that kicks my body into growing a new set of teeth... I understand a third set of teth isn't completely unknown...

  17. Winkypop Silver badge

    But isn't evolution only a theory?

    Just kiddin'

  18. Steven Roper

    Environmental stressing as a cause of genetic alteration

    was initially proposed by one Trofim Lysenko during the reign of Stalin, if I remember my Soviet history correctly. His work was largely discredited by Western biologists, although anybody who dared to question Lysenko's ideas in the USSR generally earned themselves a one-way ticket to the gulag.

    Are we to believe this charlatan was actually right after all?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Ted Treen


    "... finding a way to activate the processes that would cause the much larger and more aggressive aurochs to develop..."

    Why, FFS?

    Just because we can is NOT a valid reason.

    1. Red Bren


      Because they might be delicious!

      Fire up the BBQ!

    2. Ru

      To repair some of the damage we have done?

      Restoring recently destroyed species does not seem like a wholly unreasonable idea to me. Inevitably people like you are going to draw parallels with pulp science fiction without actually considering the whole 'fiction' thing.

      Also, they probably weren't hunted for fun, but more because they were made of tasty, tasty meat. Compare and contrast modern pigs with wild boar who are particularly aggressive, but also quite tasty.

  20. ChrisM

    Supersoldier Ant

    Never mind him, it's supersoldier Dec we should be afraid of...

  21. Unicornpiss

    I just hope they don't accidentally get out of the lab

    Who knows what havoc they'd wreak on other ant colonies and other forms of insect life. Like a bad sci-fi movie...

    1. Old Handle

      Not to worry...

      The good thing about this type of modification—unless I badly misunderstood—is that the effect should only last one generation. In fact, supersoldier caste ants probably don't reproduce at all. But that detail aside, they're not actually changing the DNA just applying hormones to activate latent characteristics. It's not entirely unlike, how man can take hormones and grow breasts, I suppose.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Super CEO?

    Maybe Howard Stringer should take some of those hormonez, Sony needs all the market dominating characteristics it can muster, with AAPL at a whopping 422usd.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    I for one cheer the arrival of our ant saviors....

    We're going to need them to fight off the hordes of mammoths and velociraptors and whatever else the eggheads are thinking of bringing out of storage!!

  24. Drew V.

    Please don't develop methods to activate dormant characteristics in humans such as over-sized jaws, long sharp fangs, abnormally sized eyeballs and pointy ears. We all know that Twilight fans, Trekkies, anime cosplayers and various assorted wankers would abuse this science.

    That they wouldn't be able to pass these characteristics on to their offspring would be the very least we could then hope for! (then again you may ask, what offspring?)

  25. Audrey S. Thackeray


    Would be interested to know if these artificially spawned super soldier ants behave in the same way as the 'natural' ones as well as growing like them.

  26. Paul 172
    Thumb Up

    "I for one, etc etc...."

  27. Dave 32


    Now you've gone and done it. There are military brass all over the world that are drooling on their desks (well, more so that usual). How long before we can expect these trials to move to humans (or, have they already)?!?


    P.S. I want the one with the overly sized...err, never mind!

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