Ants can smell out rivals

February 23rd, 2012 - 5:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 23 (IANS) Weaver ants share a collective memory of odour of ants in rival nests, similar to how sports fans know one another instantly by their unique colours, a study reveals.

It gives them an edge about rivals even before they encounter them, said study leader Mark Elgar, professor of zoology at the University of Melbourne.

“This communication highlights the impressive nature of ant societies because the colonies of some species, like weaver ants, can consist of networks of nests containing millions of workers,” Elgar was quoted by the journal Naturwissenschaften.

Weaver ants build intricate nests in trees and are found in northern Australia, India and Africa, according to a university statement.

Researchers led by Elgar took ants from 12 colonies of weaver ants and challenged them with intruders from other colonies that were either familiar or unfamiliar to them, based on previous experimental challenges.

“We find that once an ant has had an encounter with a rival, it can go back to its colony and pass on information about the rival’s smell and about how aggressive the interaction was,” said Elgar.

The next step for the research team is to understand what chemical and behavioural cues the ants use to communicate this complex information.

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