“Beasts of Science” is like a collection of stories. Beautiful stories that tell of living in all its freshness. But also in all its complexity. A parenthesis to marvel at the treasures of the world. For this new episode, let’s turn to a smaller animal: the fire ant.
ants, there are tens of thousands of them, And they are present in practically all regions of the world. Some are less intelligent than others. For some time there has been much discussion of a certain tapinoma magnum, kinda “Super Ant” Invasive plant that destroys crops and resists conventional treatments. in Africa ? in South America ? not in french. in France. It started with Corsica. with him , the small animal has invaded the continent. First around the Mediterranean because these ants prefer the seashore, then in the southwest. They have now even reached the Pays de la Loire.
But what we want to talk about today is a cousin of hers. what scientists call Solenopsis invicta and what we call, It is also aggressive. Especially since he is aggressive. to imagine. It has bitten its prey with its mighty , Its purpose is to cling to poor victims in order to be able to sting them multiple times with its stinger, which resembles a wasp. Injecting them with one of the most irritating poisons in the world. Deadly poison for some small animals.
The stage is ready. What interests us here, however, is the cognitive abilities of these ants. The abilities are even more surprising as they only have 250,000 . is, Compared to our roughly 86 billion…
What happens when North America’s most venomous caterpillar tries to walk onto a fire ant mound to reach its host plant? Megalopsis operculis is consumed by the mass of Solenopsis invicta. pic.twitter.com/zmdF0Zuvae
– Scott P. Egan (@scottpegan) November 7, 2019
bridge over a dangerous surface
In-spite of this “disability”, Fire ants show themselves to be capable even of feats that continue to elude us. While they live in very dense communities, they know, for example, how to avoid the formation of traffic jams!
They also know how to make their own body rafts to survive the floods. in it’s ownin a very coordinated way with each other. Each ant in operation establishes contact with at least 14 of its neighbors.
All this, by adopting collective rather than individualistic strategies.
and here areThe group observed one of the techniques that these amazing ants have developed to overcome obstacles that are in their path by nature. Or in this specific case, the scientists caught up in their experiments. They’re actually placed between our fire ants and a few pieces of sausage, a sticky surface. To venture would have been suicidal. The smaller animals would have really risked getting themselves stuck there.
Another notable example of tool use in ants: Fire ants “floor” sticky surfaces. I have seen signs of this behavior, but I did not expect it to be so strong until my friend told me about it (Wang et al., 2021 Entomology). pic.twitter.com/BaHBmlgtXM
— Horace Zeng (@horacezhl) 14 March 2022
But the fire was a parade of ants. They used debris found around – here, pieces of glass provided to them, in nature, it could also be pieces of leaves, branches, etc. — For, Coming to cover the sticky surface.
Here a worker ant is “paving” the floor in real time (I put a white circle around it); You can watch him pick up the gravel, move it to the tape, put it down, and do it again. pic.twitter.com/zEIEBMmpT1
— Horace Zeng (@horacezhl) 15 March 2022
Researchers saw the same game when it came to these tiny animals trawling a surface coated with a powerful ant repellent. Some debris went off as a group and voila. Showing once again that fire ants aren’t that dumb!
And pointing to a role that these insects play in a process that scientists know as bioturbation. A process of rearranging the elements contained in the soil. Improves water permeability, but also layer fertility,
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