求偶潮、囤精以及窝袭:火蚁女王的一生 Walter R. Tschinkel: Mating frenzies, sperm hoards, and brood raids: the life of a fire ant queen

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演员: Walter R. Tschinkel


台词
It’s June, just after a heavy rainfall,
时值六月,刚下过大雨,
and the sky is filling with creatures we wouldn’t normally expect to find there.
天空中充满了 通常不会在那里看到的生物。
At first glance, this might be a disturbing sight.
乍一看,景象令人很不安。
But for the lucky males and females of Solenopsis invicta,
但对于幸运的雄性或雌性红火蚁 (又叫火蚂蚁)来说,
otherwise known as fire ants, it’s a day of romance.
这是浪漫的一天。
This is the nuptial flight,
这就是婚飞现象。
when thousands of reproduction-capable male and female ants,
有翅生殖蚁是有繁殖能力的 雄性和雌性蚂蚁的统称,
called alates, take wing for the first and last time.
对成千上万有翅生殖蚁来说, 这是第一次、也是最后的起飞。
But even for successful males who manage to avoid winged predators,
但对即使能成功避开 有翼捕食者的雄蚁来说,
this mating frenzy will prove lethal.
这种交配潮也意味着生命的终结。
And for a successfully mated female, her work is only beginning.
而对成功交配的雌蚁而言, 她的工作才刚拉开序幕。
Having secured a lifetime supply of sperm from her departed mate,
从她死去的配偶那里 获得了一生的精子供应后,
our new queen must now single-handedly start an entire colony.
这位新蚁后现在必须 单枪匹马地建立完整的蚁群。
Descending to the ground,
她降落到地面上,
she searches for a suitable spot to build her nest.
寻找合适的筑巢地。
Ideally, she can find somewhere with loose, easy-to-dig soil—
理想的情况下,她能找到一处 松软而易于挖掘的土壤 ——
like farmland already disturbed by human activity.
例如已被人类开垦过的农田。
Once she finds the perfect spot, she breaks off her wings—
找到理想位置后,她就折断翅膀 ——
creating the stubs that establish her royal status.
生出作为她皇位标志的残根。
Then, she starts digging a descending tunnel ending in a chamber.
然后,她开始向下挖通道, 在通道尽头挖出一个空穴。
Here the queen begins laying her eggs, about ten per day,
蚁后开始在此处产卵, 大约每天 10 个,
and the first larvae hatch within a week.
第一个幼虫在一周内孵化。
Over the next three weeks,
在接下来的三周里,
the new queen relies on a separate batch of unfertilized eggs
新蚁后靠另一批未受精的卵
to nourish both herself and her brood,
来养育自己和幼卵,
losing half her body weight in the process.
这个过程中,她的体重轻了一半。
Thankfully, after about 20 days,
好在,大约 20 天后,
these larvae grow into the first generation of workers,
这些幼虫就已经长大, 成为第一代工蚁,
ready to forage for food and sustain their shrunken queen.
可以觅食并供养已身形枯槁的蚁后。
Her daughters will have to work quickly though—
蚁后的女儿们必须尽快工作 ——
returning their mother to good health is urgent.
当务之急是让母亲恢复健康。
In the surrounding area,
在周边地区,
dozens of neighboring queens are building their own ant armies.
数十个邻近的蚁后 也在建立自己的蚁群。
These colonies have peacefully coexisted so far,
到目前为止, 这些蚁群一直和平相处,
but once workers appear,
然而一旦工蚁出现,
a phenomenon known as brood-raiding begins.
“窝袭”现象就开始了。
Workers from nests up to several meters away
有公蚁从几米开外的蚁穴里跑来,
begin to steal offspring from our queen.
开始偷取我们蚁后的幼卵。
Our colony retaliates,
我们的蚁群会进行报复,
but new waves of raiders from even further away
但来自更远处的几波袭击
overwhelm the workers.
最终令工蚁们无力招架。
Within hours, the raiders have taken our queen’s entire brood supply
几个小时之内,
to the largest nearby nest—
掠袭者就把蚁后所有的幼卵 搬到了附近最大的蚁穴,
and the queen’s surviving daughters abandon her.
蚁后幸存的女儿们 也弃她而去。
Chasing her last chance of survival,
为抓住仅存的一线生机,
the queen follows the raiding trail to the winning nest.
蚁后沿着偷袭路线 来到胜利者的老巢,
She fends off other losing queens and the defending nest’s workers,
她与其它败阵的蚁后 和保卫巢穴的工蚁相互争斗,
fighting her way to the top of the brood pile.
一路奋战到幼卵堆顶端。
Her daughters help their mother succeed where other queens fail—
在其它女王的地盘上,我们的蚁后 在亲生女儿们的帮助下获胜 ——
defeating the reigning monarch, and usurping the brood pile.
击败了在位的君王, 并篡夺了幼卵堆。
Eventually, all the remaining challengers fail,
最后,仅存的挑战者都失败了,
until only one queen— and one brood pile— remains.
只剩一个蚁后和一大窝幼卵。
Now presiding over several hundred workers in the neighborhood’s largest nest,
现在,在附近最大的蚁穴里, 获胜蚁后管理着几百只工蚁,
our victorious queen begins aiding her colony in its primary goal:
她开始帮助蚁群实现首要目标:
reproduction.
繁殖。
For the next several years, the colony only produces sterile workers.
蚁群在接下来的几年里 孵化的都是不育的工蚁,
But once their population exceeds about 23,000,
而一旦工蚁数量 超过约 2.3 万只后,
it changes course.
这种模式就改变了。
From now on, every spring,
从现在开始,每年春天,
the colony will produce fertile alate males and females.
这个蚁群会繁殖出 雄性和雌性有翅生殖蚁。
The colony spawns these larger ants throughout the early summer,
蚁群在整个初夏 都产下这种大个蚂蚁卵,
and returns to worker production in the fall.
秋天,又回到生产工蚁的模式。
After heavy rainfalls, these alates take to the skies,
大雨后,这些有翅生殖蚁飞上天空,
and spread their queen’s genes up to a couple hundred meters downwind.
把它们蚁后的基因 顺风传播几百米远。
But to contribute to this annual mating frenzy,
但为了这一年一度的求偶潮,
the colony must continue to thrive as one massive super-organism.
这种巨大的超级蚁群生物体 必须继续茁壮成长。
Every day, younger ants feed the queen and tend to the brood,
每天,年轻的蚂蚁负责 喂养蚁后并照顾幼蚁,
while older workers forage for food and defend the nest.
而年长的工蚁负责 寻找食物并保卫蚁巢;
When intruders strike,
当有入侵者发动攻击时,
these older warriors fend them off using poisonous venom.
这些年长的工蚁 会用毒液抵挡入侵者。
After rainfalls, the colony comes together,
雨后,蚁群聚在一起,
using the wet dirt to expand their nest.
用潮湿的泥土扩建巢穴。
And when a disastrous flood drowns their home,
当灾难性的洪水 淹没了她们的家时,
the sisters band together into a massive living raft—
姐妹们会集聚成 一个巨大的活体救生筏——
carrying their queen to safety.
顺着水势把蚁后搬运到安全的地方。
But no matter how resilient,
然而,不管蚁群适应力多强,
the life of a colony must come to an end.
其生命总会走到尽头。
After about 8 years, our queen runs out of sperm
大约 8 年以后, 蚁后用尽了精子,
and can no longer replace dying workers.
再也无法更新日益减少的工蚁。
The nest’s population dwindles, and eventually,
蚁巢蚂蚁的数量逐渐减少,
they’re taken over by a neighboring colony.
最终被邻近蚁群占领。
Our queen’s reign is over, but her genetic legacy lives on.
我们蚁后的统治结束了, 但她的遗传基因仍在延续。