Friday, November 19, 2010

Semut dari Mars?

Semut spesies baru yang ditemui di hutan Amazon ini hidup di bawah tanah dan buta selama hidupnya. Para saintis yang menemuinya pasti semut tersebut masih keturunan langsung semut purba yang pertama kali menghuni Bumi.


Seorang mahasiswa program studi biologi evolusi Universitas Texas, AS, Christian Rabeling, menemuinya pertama kali di hutan hujan Empresa Brasileira de Pasquisa Agropecuaria di Manaus, Brazil, tahun 2003. Ia adalah satu-satunya koloni semut yang hidup di bekas pohon yang membusuk di dalam tanah.

Maka, pantas kalau penemunya memberi nama Martialis heureka yang ertinya semut dari Mars saking unik dan anehnya. Semut tersebut tak lagi menggunakan indera penglihatan dan tak memerlukan pigmen atau pewarna tubuh karena telah beradaptasi dengan lingkungan yang gelap gelita. Sebagai gantinya, ia memiliki tubuh memanjang dan capit yang panjang yang diduga untuk meraba dan menangkap mangsa.

Martialis heureka tidak hanya tercatat sebagai spesies baru, tapi juga membentuk kumpulan genus tersendiri, bahkan subfamili baru. Subfamili terkini ditemui pada tahun 1967. Saat ini semut terbagi dalam 21 subfamili.

Sampel DNA yang diambil dari kakinya menunjukkan bahawa semut dari Mars menempati pangkal pohon evolusi semut. Dari sifat genetikanya, semut diperkirakan mulai muncul sejak 120 juta tahun lalu dari nenek moyang yang sama dengan tawon. Para ilmuwan meyakini semut segera tersebar ke dalam habitat yang berbeza-beza, di tanah, dedaunan, dan sebagainya.

"Penemuan ini menyokong pendapat bahawa semut predator yang buta dan hidup di dalam tanah muncul di awal evolusi," ujar Rabeling. Meski demikian, hal tersebut bukan bererti nenek moyang semut buta dan hidup di tanah. Namun, saat mulai berevolusi, semut telah beradaptasi dengan lingkungan tanah hutan tropika.

Rabeling mengatakan, Martialis heureka memberi petunjuk bahawa rahsia evolusi semut mungkin masih tersembunyi di balik hutan hujan tropika. Penemuan yang dilaporkan dalam jurnal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ini juga memberikan maklumat baru untuk mempelajari lebih mendalam keragaman hayati serangga, khususnya semut.

1 Responses to “Semut dari Mars?”

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