Precious lessons learned from ANTS. Ants Are Amazing Where Do Ants Live? · Do Ants Have Jobs? · What Do Ants Eat? · How Do Ants Communicate? · Cool Facts About Ants World Almanac for Kids
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Ants Are Amazing • Where Do Ants Live? · Do Ants Have Jobs? · What Do Ants Eat? · How Do Ants Communicate? · Cool Facts About Ants • World Almanac for Kids • Some 9,500 species of ants have been discovered and named so far. Myrmecologists (scientists who study ants) estimate that there are about 20,000 species in all. Ants have been around for about 100 million years, and are found in just about every type of land environment. • Where Do Ants Live?
Where Do Ants Live? • Ants are social insects that live together in large groups, or colonies. Their group home is usually a system of underground tunnels and chambers, with mounds above formed out of the dirt or sand they removed in digging. But some ants are different. Carpenter ants carve tunnels in wood (but don't eat it). In the rain forests of South America, the Aztec ant lives inside trees. Tailor ants from the tropics of Africa use leaves to build their nests. And Army ants don't build at all. They travel in big groups looking for food.
Do Ants Have Jobs? • Each ant has a specific job. The queen lays eggs to populate the colony. Workers collect food, feed members of the colony, and enlarge the nest. Soldiers are large workers that defend the colony and sometimes attack ants who are strangers. All these hard-working ants are female. Males have wings to fly to another colony, where they mate with a queen and die soon afterwards.
What Do Ants Eat? • Ants are very fond of eating sweet foods, seeds, and other insects. Sweets provide energy for worker ants, and the protein from other insects helps build up the ant's body. The Dalmatie ant actually cooks its food by chewing it into patties and baking them in the sun. Harvester ants collect and store seeds. Leaf-cutter ants grow fungus for food.
How Do Ants Communicate? • Ants communicate by touching each other with their antennae. They show other ants where food is by making a path with a chemical (called a pheromone) that leaves a scent that the ants follow.
Cool Facts About Ants • The world's biggest ant colony was discovered in 2002. This supercolony has billions of ants living in millions of nests. It stretches 3,600 miles, all the way from Italy to northwest Spain. • An ant can lift 50 times its own weight--which is as much of a feat for them as lifting a car would be for you! • Ants don't have lungs. They breathe through tiny holes in their sides called spiracles. • Ants display many behaviors similar to ours. For example, worker ants take care of larvae by feeding and washing them. • No one knows whether ants "sleep" in the way we do. They don't have eyelids, so they can't close their eyes. They do rest, but trying to monitor their brain activity at this time would interfere with it so much that the results wouldn't tell us anything. Ants do look for food only during the day. And in the winter, their breathing and metabolism slows way down.
ants • Ants make up 1/10 of the total world animal tissue, and some can survive for up to two days underwater (African army ant). • The animal with the largest brain in proportion to its size is the ant. • Ants dont sleep. Thanx teepo (apparently noone can be sure since they don't have eyelids, they also have no need for sleep) • Ants taste like sweet tarts. (from experience..)Thanx RiffSingr • There are one million ants to every human in the world
Ants don't sleep. • When the only queen ant dies, so does the entire colony, because no new workers are born. • The study of ants is called Myrmecology. • For every human in the world there are one million ants. • The brain of an ant has about 250,000 brain cells. • The sense of smell of an ant is just as good as a dog's is. • Ants can lift an object up to fifty times their body-weight and carry it over their heads. They don't do this with their feet, but with their mouths. • A leaf-cutter ant queen mates only once - just before establishing a new colony. She can then keep the sperm viable for up to 15 years and produce as many as 300 million offspring
Amazing Ants Ambush Prey from Foxholes • A crafty ant species builds a trap dotted with foxholes for surprise attacks on an insect. They stretch their victim out like a medieval criminal on a rack as more ants swarm in for the kill. • Such incredible cooperation among ants has never before been described by scientists. • The ants, called Allomerus decemarticulatus, live in trees in the Amazon. Their trap is made of natural plant hairs, some regurgitated goo, and a binding fungus that the ants, amazingly, appear to farm. It allows the ants to snag a meal, such as a large flying insect, that they otherwise could not handle.
Here's how it works: • An insect lands on the trap, which to the unsuspecting eye looks like part of the tree. Ants spring from dozens of holes in the gallery-like structure and grab the bug's legs, stretching them out to immobilize the large prey. Other worker ants swiftly arrive to sting the bug to death. Before long, the insect is carved up and carted away. • The ambush is well orchestrated, as University of Toulouse researcher Jerome Orivel and his colleagues describe in the April 21 issue of the journal Nature. • "Allomerus workers hide in the galleries with their heads just under the holes, mandibles wide open, seemingly waiting for an insect to land," the scientists write. "To kill the insect, they grasp its free legs, antennae or wings, and move in and out of holes in opposite directions until the prey is progressively stretched against the gallery and swarms of workers can sting it." • The ants then slide the prey across the gallery, again moving in and out of holes, but this time in the same direction. "They move it slowly towards a leaf pouch, where they carve it up." • The key to building the trap is a fungus that the ants cultivate. The fungus grows on the trap and solidifies the structure. The researchers grew some tree saplings as a test. If the ants were not present, no fungus grew, but if the ants were there, the saplings developed the fungus. • Orivel marvelled over the trap-building. "It is something manufactured by the ants from elements coming from the plant and the environment," he said in an email interview. "Contrary to social spiders which are also collectively building a trap (their web) from the silk they produce, the trap of Allomerus is made from external products." • "To our knowledge, the collective creation of a trap as a predatory strategy has not been described before in ants," the researchers conclude.
Here's how it works: • An insect lands on the trap, which to the unsuspecting eye looks like part of the tree. Ants spring from dozens of holes in the gallery-like structure and grab the bug's legs, stretching them out to immobilize the large prey. Other worker ants swiftly arrive to sting the bug to death. Before long, the insect is carved up and carted away. • The ambush is well orchestrated, as University of Toulouse researcher Jerome Orivel and his colleagues describe in the April 21 issue of the journal Nature
"Allomerus workers hide in the galleries with their heads just under the holes, mandibles wide open, seemingly waiting for an insect to land," the scientists write. "To kill the insect, they grasp its free legs, antennae or wings, and move in and out of holes in opposite directions until the prey is progressively stretched against the gallery and swarms of workers can sting it."
The ants then slide the prey across the gallery, again moving in and out of holes, but this time in the same direction. "They move it slowly towards a leaf pouch, where they carve it up." • The key to building the trap is a fungus that the ants cultivate. The fungus grows on the trap and solidifies the structure. The researchers grew some tree saplings as a test. If the ants were not present, no fungus grew, but if the ants were there, the saplings developed the fungus.
Orivel marvelled over the trap-building. "It is something manufactured by the ants from elements coming from the plant and the environment," he said in an email interview. "Contrary to social spiders which are also collectively building a trap (their web) from the silk they produce, the trap of Allomerus is made from external products."
"To our knowledge, the collective creation of a trap as a predatory strategy has not been described before in ants," the researchers conclude.
Ants are among the most amazing and fascinating creatures in the world. They are all social and live in large groups of mostly sterile sisters who work to raise the offspring of their mother, the Queen.There are almost 9,000 known species of ant in the world and they have a wide variety of lifestyles. For instance the giant Australian Bull Ants which can be over 2.5 cms long, live very simple lives and the Queens and Workers look very similar. In contrast the Leaf cutting ants of Central and South America have a much more complicated social structure in their nests. There can be 3 or 4 different sizes of workers as well as large soldiers, males and Giant Queens and Gynes.
Ants are amazingly successful creatures, on the Ivory Coast in Africa there can be as many as 7,500 colonies of ants per hectare, with an average of around 2,850 ants per colony this adds up 20,000,000 ants per hectare or 2,000 per square metre. Some scientists have estimated that if you weighed up all the animals in the Amazon Basin ants would make up about 30% of the total, and though they are not this successful everywhere it is considered that they might make up as much as 10% of the total animal biomass of the world.
Why do ants live in colonies? There is no simple answer to this question which eventually leads you to a study of the whole of ecology. Though generally we assume that it is because living this way allows the ants to compete more successfully with other animals, considering their success as animals it is obviously works as a strategy for them. A different question might be why don't more animals live in colonies? Part of the answer to this is that most insects are not carnivores and generally speaking it is more efficient for small herbivores to feed on their food where it is rather than bring it back to a central nest.
Ecology • EcologyBecause different species of ants live such diverse lives it is not possible to describe an average lifestyle, instead what follows is a brief description of the lifecycle of Lasius niger known in Britain as the Common Black Ant or the Pavement Ant (not to be confused with Tetramorium caespitum the Pavement Ant of the rest of Europe, a good example of why we have Latin names). And then a few facts about some of the most fascinating ants of all The Leaf Cutters of South America.
Lasius niger • Lasius nigerFor much of the year most of the ants in the nest are the neuter (sexless) females known as workers. They are all sisters and generally speaking have no young of their own. Instead they help raise more younger sisters which have been produced by the mutual mother the Queen. Sometime in late June or early July however the Queen lays some special eggs, these grow up to be the new sexuals, both females (called gynes) and males.
Unlike other ants these sexuals can fly, on some warm evening the sexuals from all the nests in a given area (this can be an area as large as Southern England for L. niger) rise up from their underground nest and go in search of mates from other nests. Most species of ants do this at some time of year and it is known as the 'Nuptial Flight'. The males compete for the females and the females may mate with more than one male during the nuptial flight but they never mate again after it. You can often spot when a nuptial flight is happening because loads of birds have an aerial feast on the fat rich sexuals, sexuals are larger than the workers and often easy to catch.
Once she is mated, a female ant is called a Queen, she is destined to be the longest lived and most important member of a new colony (some wood-ant queens are known to live for more than 20 years). The first act of the newly mated queen is to find a safe place to make a new home. Once she has found a suitable site, generally under a log or stone, she digs and scrapes a small hole, climbs into it then plugs up the entrance from the inside so that she is well hidden from the world (this is considered to be an advanced trait in ants as many species are not so isolationist).
After (or some times before) secreting herself away the new queen discards her wings, she will never fly again and they are nutritionally valueless, and redigests her large thoracic flight muscles as these have served their single purpose in life and are now more use as a food reserve for the next few months, during this time she will raise her first brood of workers without eating a single meal.
She is ready to lay eggs in 4 to 7 days and her first lot of eggs, about 10 to 20 in number hatch into very small workers called 'nanitics'. These nanitics take over the job of raising the queens young and they will soon be helped by the next lot of full sized workers. The queen now settles down to a life of eating and laying eggs
The nanitics open the entrance to the nest and start foraging for food as soon as the weather is suitable. Foragers collect nectar from flowers and a sugary substance called honey-dew from aphids (hemipterans) and some lepidopteran larvae. Different species of ants protect their 'herd' and sometimes even build them shelters, these are what is commonly referred to as "ant cattle".
They also collect seeds and other invertebrates, this solid food is only for the larvae as the adults only need carbohydrates for energy and thus feed exclusively on sugars and water. Ants which have collected some nectar can carry more than they need for themselves in their crops and this extra can be shared with other members of the colony when they get back to the nest. This sharing is done when one ant passes a drop of fluid from its crop into its mouth and a second ant collects it in her mouth This is called 'trophallaxis' and looks to us like two ants kissing, it is as important to the ants as kissing is to us, if not more so.
The Leaf Cutters • The Leaf CuttersSome of the most amazing and fascinating ants in the world are the South American Attines, there are 202 known species of Attines and all are fungus culturers or gardeners, with the more advanced genera cutting leaves from living plants in order to feed their fungus gardens, hence their vernacular or common names of 'Leaf Cutters' or 'Fungus Gardeners'
The different Attine species grow a variety of fungi on various substrates and feed themselves and their larva exclusively on the products of the fungi. They can be divided into three different groups depending on the kind of substrate they use and on the degree of polymorphism (having many forms) exhibited by the workers
Primitive forms such as Cyphomyrmex remosa are monomorphic (i.e. the workers are all the same basic size) and they use insect droppings and pieces of dead plant material as the substrate for their gardens. Their nests are small with only a few hundred workers who clean the floor area of the nest with their tongues before building a garden on it. They culture a yeast like fungus and feed on the bromatia.
Transitional forms are exemplified by species of Trachymyrmex, they build larger nests and use fallen flowers and fruit as well as insect frass (droppings specifically insect ones) to feed their gardens, though they are still basically monomorphic.The more advanced types, though they may use dead vegetation to get the first garden in a new colony going, all use fresh cut vegetation after that. They go to far greater efforts to ensure a mono-culture of their desired fungus than the less evolved species. They all have polymorphic workers and the nests of some species can contain well over 500,000 workers.
The construction of a fungus garden begins with the swabbing clean of the floor where it is going to be. Then the first plant material is brought in and cut into little pieces by the media workers. Each piece of leaf is licked clean over its entire surface by the minima and media workers, this helps remove fungal spores, antibiotics such as myrmacacin are released by the ants mandidbular glands help ensure that endophytic (inside the leaf) fungi do not compete with the ants cultured fungi.
Next the leaf is built into the garden, which is sculptured to contain many furrows and cavities where the brood is kept. Once in place the leaf piece is fertilised by an anal secretion of the ant which contains some proteases (protein degrading enzymes) which the fungus lacks and then inoculated with several pieces of mycelium (the long thin bits of the fungi which you normally do not see because they are under the ground in macro fungi). Most of this finer worker is done by the minima workers which are the smallest the three or four sizes of workers you can find in most Leaf-Cutter nests.
For genera such as Atta and Acromyrmex and individual garden will be about 10-12 cms in diametre and have a life span of 3 to 4 weeks and it will produce gongylidia on which the ants and their larvae feed. During this time it is scrupulously cared for by the workers and any foreign fungi which develop are carefully removed and thrown out of the nest or on to a garbage dump. A nest will contain many gardens in various stages of use and may be quite large. A large nest can reach several metres (up to about 6) down into the ground and contain dozens of individual gardens. Different species of ant tend to use different plants as substrate, i.e. Atta texana uses grasses where Atta cephalotes uses the leaves of trees.
The fungus used by these higher species, is believed to be Attamyces bromafiticus it is completely dependant on the ants for its propagation and the ants are completely dependant on the fungus for their food. Such is the extent of this amazing mutualism that the fungus has never been found outside of an Attine nest and the gynes all take a small sample of the fungus with them in a special pouch under there chin (called a buccal cavity) when they go on there nuptial flight so that they will be able to start new gardens after they are mated.
A Final Note • It is important to realise that this is only a generalised view of two groups of ant, all of the variations you can think of on these themes are practiced by some species of ant somewhere. From ants whose queens only produce sexuals. These sexuals mate with each other in their home nest, the females, now queens leave the nest and find a colony of a different but particular species of ant. On finding a suitable nest she enters it, kills the ruling queen and uses her workers to raise her own sexuals, she produces no workers of her own, this is called 'social parasitism' the only British example is Anergates atratulus which is a social parasite on Tetramorium caespitum. To ants such as the South American Army ants which have no permanent nest sites, but travel around the forest eating anything they can get their mandibles on and making temporary bivouacs out of their workers bodies whenever the make a short rest at any particular site, i.e. Eciton sp.
Amazon ants (red ants found in the western U.S.) steal the larvae of other ants to keep as slaves. The slave ants build homes for and feed the Amazon ants, who cannot do anything but fight. They depend completely on their slaves for survival.
While there is much obsession with finding life in outer space, there are about one million different kinds of denizens of the animal world that breathe without lungs or gills, yet all have the same three body sections, six legs and antennae. I'm sure that up close, their appearance will outdo any special effect space alien. Ants are just one kind of these.
The ant eggs hatch into larvae. The larvae later grow to become full grown ants. • The typical ant colony is usually centered around one or more egg-laying "queens". The smaller worker ants care for the queen and her eggs.
The smaller male ants and the larger queen ants all have wings. The male's life-span is short. Only the queen begins a new colony. • A typical queen ant will usually fly to a new location to start a new colony by herself. She will not need to fly any more, so she sheds her wings.
Record feats • With their combined weight greater than the combined weight of all humans, ants are the most numerous type of animal.Strong in relation to their size, ants can carry 10 to 20 times their body weight. They work in teams to move extremely heavy things. Ant brains are largest amongst insects. Mushroom shaped brain appendages have function similar to the gray-matter of human brains.It has been estimated that an ant's brain may have the same processing power as a Macintosh II computer.
Ant Jobs • What happens when ants are painted with color dots?Colored dots painted on the backs of ants according to the type of work they are observed doing show that ants have specific jobs.So yellow dotted ants would concentrate on cleaning. Teams of green dotted ants forage outward for food. Orange dotted ants would take care of the young.After a few days or weeks, the ants may change their jobs as they take on new skills.Sometimes when a catastrophe occurs, the ants respond by quickly adapting their duties to overcome the problem.
BOTH ANTS & HUMANS SHARE THESE ENDEAVORS LIVESTOCK FARMING herd aphids & "milk" them for nectar-like food CULTIVATIONgrowing underground gardens for food CHILDCAREfeeding young & providing intensive nursery care EDUCATIONteaching younger ants the tricks of the trade CLIMATE CONTROLmaintaining a strict 77o F. for developing ants CAREER SPECIALIZATIONchanging & learning new careers CIVIC DUTIES responding with massive group projects ARMED FORCES raising an army of specialized soldier ants SECURITYwarding off other ants, insects, and animals EARTH MOVERS move at least as much soil as earthworms SOCIAL PLANNING maintain ratio of workers, soldiers, & reproductives ENGINEERING tunnel from 2 directions & meet exactly midway COMMUNICATIONScomplex tactile, chemical communication system FLOOD CONTROL incorporate water traps to keep out rain LIMITED FREE WILL inter-relationships more symbiotic than coercive