Related topics: species · genes · fungus · bees · wasps

Learning about system stability from ants

A new type of collective behavior in ants has been revealed by an international team of scientists, headed by biologist Professor Iain Couzin, co-director of the Cluster of Excellence "Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective ...

Ant responses to social isolation resemble those of humans

Ants react to social isolation in a similar way as do humans and other social mammals. A study by an Israeli-German research team has revealed alterations to the social and hygienic behavior of ants that had been isolated ...

Ant invasion: How pets become pests

When I was a teenager, I volunteered in the rainforest exhibit at an aquarium. A few times a week, we'd get a phone call from someone looking to donate a pet that they could no longer care for. Mostly turtles and frogs. The ...

How the trap-jaw ant got its ultrafast bite

Powerful and deadly, the bite of a trap-jaw ant is renowned throughout the animal kingdom. Unlike normal gripping jaws, which rely on muscles to open and close, the trap-jaw latches itself open, storing energy like a stretched ...

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Ant

Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae (pronounced /fɔrˈmɪsəˌdiː/), and along with the related wasps and bees, they belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. Today, more than 12,000 species are classified with upper estimates of about 14,000 species. They are easily identified by their elbowed antennae and a distinctive node-like structure that forms a slender waist.

Ants form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies which may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals. These larger colonies consist mostly of sterile wingless females forming castes of "workers", "soldiers", or other specialised groups. Nearly all ant colonies also have some fertile males called "drones" and one or more fertile females called "queens". The colonies are sometimes described as superorganisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, collectively working together to support the colony.

Ants have colonised almost every landmass on Earth. The only places lacking indigenous ants are Antarctica and certain remote or inhospitable islands. Ants thrive in most ecosystems, and may form 15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass. Their success has been attributed to their social organisation and their ability to modify habitats, tap resources, and defend themselves. Their long co-evolution with other species has led to mimetic, commensal, parasitic, and mutualistic relationships.

Ant societies have division of labour, communication between individuals, and an ability to solve complex problems. These parallels with human societies have long been an inspiration and subject of study.

Many human cultures make use of ants in cuisine, medication and rituals. Some species are valued in their role as biological pest control agents. However, their ability to exploit resources brings ants into conflict with humans, as they can damage crops and invade buildings. Some species, such as the red imported fire ant, are regarded as invasive species, since they have established themselves in new areas where they have been accidentally introduced.

This text uses material from Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA