When it comes to feeding the colony, ants work together to drag large food stuffs back home. On the other hand, when barricades get in the way of their path back home, how capable are ants of redirecting their sense of direction to get the food home?
To find out, researcher Helen McCreery and her colleagues experimented in the lab. Their findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
After putting a chunk of tuna on a flat surface and observing how the ants worked together to drag the food in the direction of their colony, anticipations were high to challenge the ants and see if they could continue their valiant efforts with a hurdle in the way.
Image Credit: Helen McCreery/YouTube
The researchers constructed walls out of Legos and placed them directly in the path in between the ants and their colony. The goal was to confuse the ants the best they could to see how they would collaborate and use their problem-solving skills. The walls varied in shape and size.
The first was simply a flat wall. In this experiment, the ants were observed moving along the surface of the wall almost randomly until they found a way around it. When they did, they continued along the path to their colony as if nothing were ever in the way to begin with.
Next up, the researchers increased the pressure of their tiny little minds by building a cul-de-sac-like dead end; a three-sided wall where there was only one way out. Interestingly, the ants found their way out after several random swerves and headed back towards the colony.
Finally, to see what they would do in a lose/lose situation, the researchers sealed off the fourth wall of the cul-de-sac and watched as the ants simply put down the food and gave up. They started wandering aimlessly in all directions while the food just sat.
One might call the last situation a state of panic, but it shows that the ants are intelligent enough to know how to get out of trouble and know when it’s simply impossible to accomplish a task.
So, in conclusion, it just might seem that there is some rhyme and reason to how ants work, especially when bringing food back home for everyone to survive on. The experiment also shows they’re quite the little problem solvers.
Source: New York Times