Differential life expectancies in ant colonies.

Members of a “normal” ant colony have widely varying life expectancies. Reproductive animals (males and queens) differ substantially in their lifespan compared to non-reproductive individuals. The non-reproductive animals, corresponding to members of different worker castes, have lower life expectancies (top) than the queen. In the ancestral ponerine ant Harpegnathos saltator, fully developed workers have the ability to transform into reproductive individuals, called gamergates, which increases their life expectancy several fold (bottom).