Thursday, April 2, 2009

Zombie Ants

I just heard a great story on NPR about how ants know when an another ant is dead. Turns out that ants don't recognize one of their own as dead until it begins to smell. Apparently ants produce a unique odor during decomposition that alerts members of their community to the fact that the dead ant needs to be removed to the midden. Basically, ants require other ants to rot before they figure out that they are dead. This is kind of odd, when you consider that a dead ant looks pretty different from a living ant, I mean, you think they would notice that the dead ant is upside down and not moving. E.O. Wilson proved that it doesn't matter how lively an ant looks, or even if it moves, in the determination of death, all that matters is the scent. Professor Wilson showed this by creating a zombie ant, a live ant that for all intents and purposes appeared dead to its companions, simply by putting a drop of dead ant smell on it.

Read, or listen to the story here.



Blogger Connor said...

I love zombie ants.

April 8, 2009 at 4:02 PM  

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