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Scientist tricks ants into believing fellow ant is dead

 
 
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 09:55 pm
'Hey I'm Dead!' The Story Of The Very Lively Ant

Quote:
When Ed Wilson was a young assistant professor at Harvard in the 1950s, he observed that when ants die " and if they're not crushed and torn apart " they just lie there, sometimes upside down, feet in the air, while their sister ants (almost all ants in a colony are ladies) walk right by without a glance. That is until about two days after an ant's passing, Ed discovered, when the corpse appears to emit a chemical signal that changes the living ants' behavior dramatically.

All of a sudden what was once a pile of gunk on the colony floor becomes a "Problem to Be Solved." Once the signal is in the air, any ant that happens by grabs the corpse and carries it through the colony to a refuse pile designated the graveyard and dumps it on a mound of also-dead ants.


Quote:
Finally, after much sifting and mixing, Ed discovered that oleic acid " just a teeny drop of it " was all the ants had to sniff to think "DEAD!" And, because he could " Ed had a colony parked in his Harvard lab so he could watch them endlessly " one day he took a drop of the chemical and gently deposited it on an ant that had the misfortune of walking by.


Quote:
Ed describes how as soon as he dabbed the ant, the next ant that came near grabbed his ant, slung it on its back, hiked over to the graveyard and though the ant was very much alive " "kicking, you know," says Ed " flung it onto the refuse pile.

Dead is what you smell " not what you see " if you are an ant. So, though it tried to clean itself over and over, the minute it returned to the colony, it was grabbed, carried and slung back on the pile.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 11 • Views: 3,320 • Replies: 17

 
joefromchicago
 
  5  
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 10:22 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Scientists can be real bastards sometimes.
0 Replies
 
NickFun
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 10:49 pm
I wonder if that ant was ever able to escape his fate and become a useful member of the colony again.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 2 Apr, 2009 11:00 pm
@Robert Gentel,
he's a right prick.
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  2  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 12:09 am
Well geeze. Big smart PhD outsmarts an ant with what? Maybe 3 brain cells. Give the man a medal.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 01:29 am
@NickFun,
NickFun wrote:

I wonder if that ant was ever able to escape his fate and become a useful member of the colony again.


Yes, she was.

She was accepted once again after a few minutes (as I recall) when she was rubbed free of the solution.

By being dragged to the cemetery again and again, I guess.

Odd none of the carrying ants became "dead" too.


Actually...it WAS mean...but I guess it really dramatically illustrated the primacy of olfactory signals for ants...and likely other insects.


Apparently there is a drinking game called dead ants.

Someone yells out "Dead Ants!" and everyone falls to the floor on their backs, and waves their legs in the air.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 08:13 am
@dlowan,
Im gonna spray a bunch of ants with olive oil (lotsa oleic acid in oo) and see whether they start trying to carry each other away to be buried. HO HO, sounds like some real fun.(Not half as lame as the rabbits drinking game)
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 08:21 am
I think I could watch ants all day long, they're so fascinating. This reminds me of an article I read a while back about ants tricking butterflies into raising their young. I'm off to find it.

*Edit: I had that backwards. It's butterflies that tricked the ants into raising their young. http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/02/05/ants-butterflies.html
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 08:24 am
@dlowan,
dlowan wrote:
Apparently there is a drinking game called dead ants.

Someone yells out "Dead Ants!" and everyone falls to the floor on their backs, and waves their legs in the air.

http://allfunteevee.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/250x345_belushi.jpg
"GATOR!"
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 08:57 am
A list of actual studies reported in science journals in recent years:

"Sword Swallowing and Its Side Effects," Brian Witcombe and Dan Meyer, British Medical Journal, December 23, 2006, vol. 333, pp. 1285-7.

"Wrinkling of an Elastic Sheet Under Tension," E. Cerda, K. Ravi-Chandar, L. Mahadevan, Nature, vol. 419, October 10, 2002, pp. 579-80.

"Novel Production Method for Plant Polyphenol from Livestock Excrement Using Subcritical Water Reaction," Mayu Yamamoto, International Medical Center of Japan.

"Woodpeckers and Head Injury," Philip R.A. May, Joaquin M. Fuster, Paul Newman and Ada Hirschman, Lancet, vol. 307, no. 7957, February 28, 1976, pp. 454-5.

"Dung Preference of the Dung Beetle Scarabaeus cristatus Fab (Coleoptera-Scarabaeidae) from Kuwait," Wasmia Al-Houty and Faten Al-Musalam, Journal of Arid Environments, vol. 35, no. 3, 1997, pp. 511-6.

"Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly," Daniel M. Oppenheimer, Applied Cognitive Psychology, vol. 20, no. 2, March 2006, pp. 139-56.

"Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage," Francis M. Fesmire, Annals of Emergency Medicine, vol. 17, no. 8, August 1988 p. 872.

"Will Humans Swim Faster or Slower in Syrup?" American Institute of Chemical Engineers Journal, Brian Gettelfinger and E. L. Cussler, vol. 50, no. 11, October 2004, pp. 2646-7.

"The Effect of Country Music on Suicide." James Gundlach, Social Forces, vol. 71, no. 1, September 1992, pp. 211-8.
old europe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 09:04 am
@FreeDuck,
Quote:
In times of food shortage, nurse ants have been known to kill their own larvae and feed them to the caterpillars pretending to be queen ants, they added.


Shocked

Poor ants. Getting outsmarted not just by Harvard professors, but also by butterflies.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 09:09 am
@FreeDuck,
There's also the red ants who enslave another species of ant... they steal 'em when they're eggs and the poor little baby ants hatch and think the stealer ants are their parents... lemme try to find that one...
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 09:11 am
@sozobe,
Here we go:

http://ant.edb.miyakyo-u.ac.jp/BE/Kingdom/4445/4445e.html
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 09:26 am
@sozobe,
Wow.
0 Replies
 
George
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 09:44 am
What did the Pink Panther say after spraying oleic acid?
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 10:15 am
@George,
dead ant dead ant
dead ant
dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant dead aaaaant...
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 10:32 am
@wandeljw,
Quote:
The Effect of Country Music on Suicide." James Gundlach, Social Forces, vol. 71, no. 1, September 1992, pp. 211-8.



Gimme the short answer on this one.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Apr, 2009 10:37 am
Zombie ants.
0 Replies
 
 

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