Tala Ko

Ants can be freeloaders too

Posted on: Tuesday, 12 May 2009

clipped from www.nytimes.com
To understand what is really going on in a colony of ants or bees, Dr. Dornhaus, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, tracks the little creatures individually — hence the paint and the numbers.

studies of whether the efficiency of ant society, based on a division of labor among ant specialists, is important to their success
briefly anesthetized 1,200 ants, one by one, and painted them using a single wire-size brush, with model airplane paint
two video cameras aiming down on an insect-size stage, she analyzed 300 hours of videotape of the ants in action
behavior more worthy of Aesop’s grasshopper than the proverbial industrious ants
fast ants took one to five minutes to perform a task
slow ants took more than an hour, and sometimes two
about 50 percent of the other ants do not do any work at all
small colonies may sometimes rely on a single hyperactive overachiever
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