Ant’s social network similar to Facebook

Apr 14, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier report
Weaver ants collaborating to dismember a red ant (the two at the extremities are pulling the red ant, while the middle one cuts the red ant until it snaps). Image: Wikipedia.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A recent study in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface presents findings that show that not all ants are as social as others. Similar to your friends on Facebook, some ants communicate with only a few fellow ants, while others are social butterflies and communicate with a much larger circle.

A team of researchers at Stanford University, led by biologist Noa Pinter-Wollman studied the interactions of the red harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus), native to the deserts of the American Southwest.

All ants utilize a system of to communicate. Molecules are secreted through their exoskeletons and are transferred to other ants in the colony when their antennae rub the molecules. This allows them to share information such as where they have been, any food sources they may have found, or if predators are in the area.

Using a mock chamber entrance, the team of researchers measured the between ants from two different colonies. Videotaping the exchanges, the team then used a computer program designed to identify each individual ant and count its interactions with others. A total of 4628 interactions were recorded.

On average, each ant had around 40 interactions. However, around 10 percent of the ants made more than 100 contacts with other ants. Further research is examining just what makes these more social ants different than the others within the colonies.

The researchers compare this type of to that seen on sites like Facebook. While most people have a relatively small number of , there are some with a friends list in the thousands. It is these friends that act as a sort of information hub, spreading information out to a large number of readers. These particular are functioning as a large social hub of information.

Explore further: Too many chefs: Smaller groups exhibit more accurate decision-making

More information: The effect of individual variation on the structure and function of interaction networks in harvester ants, J. R. Soc. Interface, Published online before print April 13, 2011; doi: 10.1098/​rsif.2011.0059 rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2011/04/12/rsif.2011.0059.abstract

Related Stories

Ant colonies shed light on metabolism

Aug 26, 2010

Ants are usually regarded as the unwanted guests at a picnic. But a recent study of California seed harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex californicus) examining their metabolic rate in relation to colony size may lead to a better ...

Fire ants reappearing in Orange County

Apr 24, 2006

Fire ants are reappearing in California's Orange County the result, say some critics, of the state ending its fire ant eradication funding in 2003.

Recommended for you

Genome yields insights into golden eagle vision, smell

2 hours ago

Purdue and West Virginia University researchers are the first to sequence the genome of the golden eagle, providing a bird's-eye view of eagle features that could lead to more effective conservation strategies.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...

Cell resiliency surprises scientists

New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative ...

One in 13 US schoolkids takes psych meds

(HealthDay)—More than 7 percent of American schoolchildren are taking at least one medication for emotional or behavioral difficulties, a new government report shows.

FDA reconsiders behavior-modifying 'shock devices'

(HealthDay)—They're likened to a dog's "shock collar" by some and called a "life-saving treatment" by others. But the days of electro-shock devices as a tool for managing hard-to-control behavior in people ...

Computer program could help solve arson cases

Sifting through the chemical clues left behind by arson is delicate, time-consuming work, but University of Alberta researchers teaming with RCMP scientists in Canada, have found a way to speed the process.