September 20, 2020

Ants have learned to form daisy chains to cooperatively move heavy things!

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0antdaisychainBy hipstomp / Rain Noe From core77

Ants like to move things, presumably to carry them back to their nests. Which doesn’t make much sense when ant hill entrances are tiny and you see them hauling back things like this relatively huge Dorito chip:

But who knows, maybe it’s just about the accomplishment of dragging it back to the nest. And maybe they build dioramas and put the objects on display. Because there’s also footage of these herpetology-minded ants transporting a lizard skull (and a second crew bringing back the spine):

So far nothing special, these guys move items the same way you, me and a few buddies would move a couch, by getting individual bodies around it. But someone in recently posted this video, where a species of Leptogenys ants have apparently learned to form a daisy chain in order to haul big-ass millipedes.

Common behavior among ants? Hardly. In the media attention following the video going viral The Atlantic concluded, after speaking with entomologist Terry McGlynn, that “it’s a particular kind of behavior that ant experts haven’t seen before.” The (admittedly somewhat less credible) UK’s Daily Mail claimed that “scientists are struggling to explain it.”

Though cooperative ant behaviour is well-documented, including forming life rafts in floods, this chaining behavior is quite different. Instead of carrying prey directly in their mandibles, the ants are forming organized lines by linking their mandibles to the preceding ant’s abdomen (gaster). Scientists are struggling to understand this previously undocumented type of cooperative transport.

’s analysis sounds very similar to the analysis given to The Atlantic by University of Colorado Ph.D. student Helen McCreery, who studies “cooperative transport strategies in ants.” Said McCreery.

These Leptogenys are moving their prey by grasping onto ants, instead of all grasping onto the prey itself. One could argue that the chains occur because ants just grab onto anything attached to the prey they are trying to move, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. Ants are very good at telling the difference between one of their sisters (another ant in the colony) and anything else. In my view, that makes this daisy chain behavior very different from other documented cooperative transport.

A second video was spotted on YouTube showing ants in also trying to form a daisy chain, but the video ends before they’re able to gain any traction:

Admittedly they’re not exactly raising a barn, but it’s pretty impressive nonetheless.

For more on this story and the videos go to: http://www.core77.com/blog/object_culture/ants_have_learned_to_form_daisy_chains_to_cooperatively_move_heavy_things_27627.asp?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+core77%2Fblog+%28Core77.com%29

 

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