Ant colony responds to predation simulation as a ‘superorganism’


Share post:

Ants may respond to disturbances in their nest as one highly organized ‘superorganism’, according to a study published November 11, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Thomas O’Shea-Wheller from the University of Bristol, England, and colleagues.

Ant colony responds to predation simulation as a 'superorganism'
Ant colony is shown in an artificial nest 
[Credit: Thomas O’Shea-Wheller]

Ant colonies are incredibly complex, and at the same time, intensely cooperative, which is why they are often referred to as single ‘superorganisms.’ The authors of this study, interested in the extent to which ants behave as a single entity, simulated different predator attacks on 30 migrating ant colonies. To observe the ants’ responses to predation at different locations in and near the nest, they removed ant scouting at the colony periphery, and then separately, removed workers from the center of the nest.

When scouts were removed from the periphery, the foraging ‘arms’ of the colony retracted back into the nest. However, when ants were removed from within the center of the nest itself, the whole colony fled, seeking asylum in a new location. While the first of these scenarios could be seen as akin to burning your hand on a stove, the second is more of a ‘house on fire’ scare. The authors suggest their results may draw parallels with the nervous systems of single organisms, in that they allow appropriate and location-dependent responses to damage, and suggest that, just as organisms may respond to cell damage via pain, ant colonies respond to loss of workers via group awareness.

Dr. O’Shea-Wheller adds, ”Ants react very differently, and in a coordinated fashion, to perceived predator attacks depending on their location. Just as we may respond to cell damage via pain, ant colonies respond to the loss of individuals via group awareness and reaction.”

Source: PLOS [November 11, 2015]



Related articles

Sergila … a unique example of an ancient Syrian village

Sergila archeological village lies next to al-Bara village on al-Zawia Mountain in Idleb Province, about 330 km from...

British team set to embark on ambitious Antarctic mission to sample ancient buried lake

After 16 years of planning the countdown is on for one of the most ambitious scientific missions to...

More on 3,000 year-old artefacts found in central Vietnam

This week, a team of Vietnamese archaeologists unearthed a cache of 3,000 year-old artifacts in central Vietnam.  The 2,500-year-old...

Professor: Mayan calendar may be way off

Get your calendars out, because there may be a correction to make as a growing list of skeptics...

Israelis mapping Mount of Olives necropolis

A Jewish group in Jerusalem is using 21st-century technology to map every tombstone in the ancient cemetery on...

Understanding the historical probability of drought

Droughts can severely limit crop growth, causing yearly losses of around $8 billion in the United States. But...

Asteroids: Breaking up is hard to do

Hundreds of thousands of asteroids are known to orbit our Sun at distances ranging from near the Earth...

New evidence shows Satavahana kings encouraged tantric worship

Repudiating the earlier assumption that Kondapur in Andhra Pradesh was a Buddhist site, new archaeological evidence indicates that...