Photos show how ants escaped a Soviet nuclear weapons bunker after surviving on cannibalism for years
- 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 board so the ants could climb back up the ventilation pipe and into the forest above.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
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.Advertisement
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.
The scientists only found worker ants in the bunker, with no queen and no larvae.Advertisement
The bunker colony grew as ants from the original colony, in the forest above, fell through a ventilation pipe beneath their nest.
Freedom was always just out of reach. Since they couldn't move along the ceiling, the ants couldn't climb back up the pipe.Advertisement
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.
Then the scientists noticed an old wooden plank leaning against the bunker wall. The trail of ants climbing to the ceiling began there.Advertisement
So they set up a 9-foot "boardwalk" from the ants' mound to the ventilation pipe above.
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.Advertisement
- Belgian Prince contracts COVID-19 after lockdown party in Spain
- Oxford University vaccine is a humanitarian cause: Indian-origin scientist
- Anti-tobacco day — Next-gen technology to help you quit smoking
- SpaceX sends 2 NASA astronauts to ISS in historic mission (2nd Ld)
- NASA and SpaceX blast off to space station