Connect with us

Breaking News

Photos show how ants escaped a Soviet nuclear weapons bunker after surviving on cannibalism for years


Business

Photos show how ants escaped a Soviet nuclear weapons bunker after surviving on cannibalism for years

Wood ants on the earth mound in the bunker, September 18, 2016. Wojciech Stephan A colony of wood ants trapped in a Soviet nuclear weapons bunker survived for years on cannibalism.Ants kept falling through a ventilation pipe into the bunker, where they had nothing but corpses to eat.A team of scientists set up a wooden…

Photos show how ants escaped a Soviet nuclear weapons bunker after surviving on cannibalism for years

wood ants nuclear bunker

Wood ants on the earth mound in the bunker, September 18, 2016.

Wojciech Stephan


Scientists finally understand how a colony of ants survived for years in a cold, dark bunker: cannibalism.

The wood ants had fallen through a ventilation pipe into a Soviet-built bunker, once used to store nuclear weapons, in the forests of Poland. Once inside, they were trapped with only other worker ants and millions of corpses.

The plight of those ants is detailed in an October study published in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research.

Here’s their harrowing tale.

A colony of ants recently escaped a Soviet-era bunker in Poland, once used to store nuclear weapons.

soviet nuclear bunker poland

Partly blocked entrance to the bunker system. In the background, pine-spruce forest overgrowing the hillock built to camouflage the structure. July 17, 2014.

Wojciech Stephan


Researchers studying wood ants in the forests of Poland first stumbled upon the unfortunate colony in 2013. They estimated that almost one million ants were inside the bunker, but couldn’t tell how long they’d been trapped there.

The bunker had been part of a Soviet nuclear base from the late 1960s to 1992.

The scientists only found worker ants in the bunker, with no queen and no larvae.

ants nuclear bunker

Worker ants in the bunker keep nest entrances open in winter, November 1, 2015.

Wojciech Stephan


The ants didn’t seem to produce any offspring, likely due to low temperatures and lack of food.

The bunker colony grew as ants from the original colony, in the forest above, fell through a ventilation pipe beneath their nest.

ants nuclear bunker

The mound of the free-living wood ant colony built on the outlet of the ventilation pipe; the source of the bunker ‘colony.’ July 24, 2015.

Wojciech Stephan


In total darkness, the bunker colony built its own mound from dirt on the bunker floor.

Freedom was always just out of reach. Since they couldn’t move along the ceiling, the ants couldn’t climb back up the pipe.

ants nuclear bunker

The ants (climbing up the wall on the left) were unable to move along the ceiling, so they could not reach the outlet of the ventilation pipe.

Wojciech Stephan


The researchers could get in and out of the bunker through cracks that the ants couldn’t access. They started to think about how they could help the ants escape.

The ants’ food source remained a mystery until the researchers came back in 2016 and examined some of the two million ant corpses piled up around the bunker.

ants nuclear bunker

The wood ants built an earthen mound in the bunker. November 1, 2015.

Wojciech Stephan


“I wasn’t surprised,” co-author and ant ecologist Maák István told Popular Science. “It was a logical option for them to survive in this way.”

Of the corpses that the researchers collected, 93% had bites or holes indicating that other ants had eaten them. The living ants had punctured the abdomens of dead ants to suck out their innards, “like opening a can,” István said.

The researchers only examined dead ants that still had their abdomens, to avoid double-counting pieces of the same corpses.

Then the scientists noticed an old wooden plank leaning against the bunker wall. The trail of ants climbing to the ceiling began there.

Did You See This CB Softwares?

37 SOFTWARE TOOLS... FOR $27!?

Join Affiliate Bots Right Away

ants nuclear bunker

A piece of board leaning against the wall initiated an ant trail up the wall, September 18, 2016.

Wojciech Stephan


Maybe the researchers could provide direct access to the ventilation pipe.

When researchers returned to the bunker a few months later, all but a few stray ants were gone, leaving behind piles of partially cannibalized corpses.

ants nuclear bunker

The earth mound, almost deserted by the ants, at the bottom of the bunker in winter, four months after setting the boardwalk. ‘Ant cemeteries’ are visible around the mound and next to the walls. February 11, 2017.

Wojciech Stephan


In the end, the scientists marveled at the ants’ perseverance and adaptability.

“The ecological and behavioural flexibility of the wood ants may allow them survival even in unexpectedly suboptimal conditions,” they wrote.

More:

Biology
Animals
Nuclear Weapons
Cannibalism

Chevron iconIt indicates an expandable section or menu, or sometimes previous / next navigation options.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

To Top