Friday, 29 June 2012

Ants call for emergency backup with chemical trail

Brazilian "big-headed" ants use chemical trails to drag others into helping them carry food, a study shows.
Researchers found that when an ant discovered food that was too large to carry, it immediately set off for the nest, laying a pungent chemical trail.
This almost instantly caused hundreds of other ants to rush in and help drag back the oversized snack.
The team thinks the species' "chemical breadcrumb trail" is the fastest and most accurate ever recorded.
The findings from this study are reported in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology.
To me, to you
Only ants and humans are able to "organise themselves into teams" to lift heavy objects.
Although many ant species use chemical trails to organise themselves into food-collecting groups, the big-headed ant has an "extreme" chemical enlisting strategy, says the University of Sussex team.
Tomer Czaczkes, the scientist who led the study - and who filmed the ants at work in the forests of Brazil - said that the insects were "incredibly accurate" when it came to following the trail laid down by a fellow forager.
"When an ant finds something delicious," he said, "she has to lay a trail really quickly, because competition is fierce.
"The pheromone trail starts working immediately. Any ants caught in its net are funnelled towards the food item."
In their experiments, Dr Czaczkes and his colleagues left food items outside an ants' nest and filmed the reaction.

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