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

Risk aversion as a survival strategy in ants

Ants are excellent navigators and always find their way back to the nest. But how do they react when an obstacle or a predator blocks their path?

Research on soldier ants reveals that evolution can go in reverse

Turtle ant soldiers look like real-life creatures straight out of a Japanese anime film. These tree-dwelling insects scuttle to and fro sporting shiny, adorably oversized heads, which they use to block the entrances of their ...

Algorithm inspired by slime mold foraging

Nature has provided a great deal of inspiration for computer scientists developing search algorithms and ways to solve complicated problems with as little computing power as possible. Ant colonies, beehives, bat hunting, ...

How plants are built to be strong and responsive

Organised cellulose fibres allow plants to grow, support themselves and store fixed carbon from the atmosphere. Wood and dietary fibre is largely made of cellulose, and coal is derived from cellulose synthesised millions ...

The invasive Argentine ant has seasonal viruses

Argentine ants are one of the most successful invasive species in the world. Scientist from University of Oulu and University of Girona, Spain, have previously identified viruses from the invasive Argentine ants of the Mediterranean ...

Sanitary care by social ants shapes disease outcome

Sanitary care in ants to fight disease is known to improve the wellbeing of the colony, yet it has been unclear how social disease defense interferes with pathogen competition inside the individual host body. In their recent ...

Of ants and men: Ant behavior might mirror political polarization

Could the division of labor in an anthill be driven by the same social dynamics governing the gap between liberals and conservatives? That was the surprising question tackled by Princeton biologists Chris Tokita and Corina ...

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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.

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