Posts about ants

Huge Ant Nest

[Google broke the original link when they trashed Google Video in poor way, which has become their habit. There history now shows they create very unreliable web services that are an embarrassment to any engineer. Still YouTube is difficult to avoid, Vimeo while not suffering from being a Google product and therefore unreliable based on Google’s history, Vimeo offers only a small fraction of the content found on YouTube.]

Very cool webcast. The ant nest goes 8 meters into the earth. The nest is engineered with vents to promote the flow of air, bringing in fresh air and expelling carbon dioxide created by the large fungus gardens. The scientists filled the ant next with concrete to excavate it: 10 tons of concrete were needed.

Related: Symbiotic relationship between ants and bacteriaAnts on Stilts for ScienceGiant Nests of Yellow-jackets

Royal Ant Genes

Royal corruption is rife in the ant world

“The accepted theory was that queens were produced solely by nurture: certain larvae were fed certain foods to prompt their development into queens and all larvae could have that opportunity,” explains Dr Hughes. “But we carried out DNA fingerprinting on five colonies of leaf-cutting ants and discovered that the offspring of some fathers are more likely to become queens than others. These ants have a ‘royal’ gene or genes, giving them an unfair advantage and enabling them to cheat many of their altruistic sisters out of their chance to become a queen themselves.”

“When studying social insects like ants and bees, it’s often the cooperative aspect of their society that first stands out,” says Dr Hughes. “However, when you look more deeply, you can see there is conflict and cheating – and obviously human society is also a prime example of this. It was thought that ants were an exception, but our genetic analysis has shown that their society is also rife with corruption – and royal corruption at that!”

Interesting. I am not convinced of the “corruption” but maybe the research itself provides more evidence of this trait not just being interesting but equivalent to corruption.

Related: Ants on Stilts for ScienceSwimming Antsposts on ants

Ants on Stilts for Science

Ant on stilts

When Ants Go Marching, They Count Their Steps by Bjorn Carey

One is that they do it like honeybees and remember visual cues, but experiments revealed ants can navigate in the dark and even blindfolded. Another disproved hypothesis was that because ants scurry at a steady pace, they could time how long it took them to get to and fro. Other studies have shown that once ants find a good source of food, they teach other ants how to find it.

The ant “pedometer” technique was first proposed in 1904, but it remained untested until now.

Scientists trained desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis, to walk along a straight path from their nest entrance to a feeder 30 feet away. If the nest or feeder was moved, the ants would break from their straight path after reaching the anticipated spot and search for their goal.

A simple example of the scientific process (another one posted yesterday about birds and global warming).
Continue reading

Swimming Ants

Scientists discover swimming ants

North Queensland scientists have discovered a new type of ant, believed to be the only species that can live, swim and navigate under water.

The ants nest in submerged mangroves and survive by hiding in air pockets and then swimming to the surface.

“I was actually working with a film crew working on insects in the mangroves and they wanted to film one of these ants and I said, ‘Well, lets put it on a rock in a puddle of water and that’ll stop it going away and then you’ll be able to film it,’ and the ant promptly just leapt off the edge of the rock and swam across the water and disappeared.

“We were sort of dumbfounded.”

Dr Robson says it is amazing that the ants can survive in such a hostile environment.

“We’ve been doing a lot of studies on their foraging behaviour and there’s a lot of things that eat them, so when they’re swimming, fish will sometimes eat them, mud skippers will eat them, crabs will attack them,” he said.

It is great to see experts can still be so suprised by nature.

Unique northern ants gain global attention

Symbiotic relationship between ants and bacteria

Study reveals classic symbiotic relationship between ants, bacteria

Ants that tend and harvest gardens of fungus have a secret weapon against the parasites that invade their crops: antibiotic-producing bacteria that the insects harbor on their bodies.

“Every ant species [that we have examined] has different, highly modified structures to support different types of bacteria,” says Currie. “This indicates the ants have rapidly adapted to maintain the bacteria. It also indicates that the co-evolution between the bacteria and the ants, as well as the fungus and parasites, has been occurring since very early on, apparently for tens of millions of years.”

Furthermore, Currie says, the fact that the species have coexisted for so long means there might be a mechanism in place to decrease the rate of antibiotic resistance – which could help address a significant problem facing modern medicine. “We can learn a lot about our own use of antibiotics from this system,” he says.

Read more about the overuse of antibiotics