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Ants Use Sound To Communicate

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the bug-talk dept.

Science 36

sciencehabit writes "A new study shows that ant pupae—a stage between larvae and adult—can communicate via sound, and that this communication can be crucial to their survival. The young insects have a specialized spike along their abdomen that they stroke with one of their hind legs, similar to dragging the teeth of a comb along the edge of a table. This noise serves primarily as an emergency beacon, allowing the ants to shout for help when being threatened by a predator."

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36 comments

New ant traps based on emitting emergency sounds? (4, Interesting)

me at werk (836328) | about a year ago | (#42830163)

Would be nice if this could be used to trick ants into thinking they need to rush to help an ant in distress, only to die in the trap.

Re:New ant traps based on emitting emergency sound (1)

yathaid (2106468) | about a year ago | (#42830189)

Would be nice if this could be used to trick ants into thinking they need to rush to help an ant in distress, only to die in the trap.

Until they learn, and so it goes, round and round... :)

Re: New ant traps based on emitting emergency soun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42831753)

If they die successfully, no one will get the word about the trap.

Re: New ant traps based on emitting emergency soun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42832139)

There will be those that won't go because they might be deaf, or because they're weary of the pheromones coming from the trap.

Those that won't get trapped will procreate and due to this 'unnatural selection' we will influence the ants to get rid of this behavior...

Re: New ant traps based on emitting emergency soun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42832763)

Only the queen lays eggs; workers do not procreate

Re: New ant traps based on emitting emergency soun (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42832923)

You're thinking of bees.

From wikipedia:
"Most ant species have a system in which only the queen and breeding females have the ability to mate. Contrary to popular belief, some ant nests have multiple queens while others may exist without queens. Workers with the ability to reproduce are called "gamergates" and colonies that lack queens are then called gamergate colonies; colonies with queens are said to be queen-right."

Re: New ant traps based on emitting emergency soun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42832881)

The behavior of responding to young in distress? That might be a net negative.

Especially considering that the pheromones might also be released by ants dying while legitimately protect the young from intruders.

Re: New ant traps based on emitting emergency soun (1)

wwfarch (1451799) | about a year ago | (#42835227)

The ant workers/defenders wouldn't be the ones affected by this trap anyway. The breeding males do nothing but eat and mate. With ants evolution has stronger pressures on the colony as a whole than any individual ant

Re: New ant traps based on emitting emergency soun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42833893)

If they die successfully, no one will get the word about the trap.

Ants leave a pheromone trail to whereever they go, so even if they die, other ants will follow the trail to the trap.

Re:New ant traps based on emitting emergency sound (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42832821)

Not necessarily. It would be pretty hard to adapt around ignoring the distress cries of your infants.

It would select for drones that ignore the distress cries of infants. If there aren't matching mutations to alter the transmitting style and reception of the new distress cry, it might just be a dead end.

Re:New ant traps based on emitting emergency sound (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42830601)

I don't mind the small black ants - they don't bite and just gather whatever food you leave lying around. So if you're not sloppy, they won't be around. And if you accidentally squish them, they don't leave a big foul smelling mess.

Re:New ant traps based on emitting emergency sound (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#42832465)

Damn sugar ants around here. Even if you're clean, the fuckers mob your sink for the water!

You'll get a drop of water with a ring of ants. Who get into everything. They even make it a few inches into the freezer before they die, leaving a nice border of ant corpses around the freezer seal. Which doesn't seem to not be sealed, so I have no idea how they get through.

Re:New ant traps based on emitting emergency sound (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | about a year ago | (#42830911)

I don't love insects, but your suggestion felt fundamentally evil.
On the one hand, the summary says "ant kids cry out for help", and then you explicitly say "let's take advantage of that to kill ants".
At least kitchen bug traps work by luring them with tasty smells, so I can reason "well, we are taking advantage of gluttony".

Ant Masturbation (4, Funny)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#42830179)

...The young insects have a specialized spike along their abdomen that they stroke with one of their hind legs...

It's A Cry For Help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42832141)

The other ants have to prevent it from going blind.

Re:It's A Cry For Help (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42832681)

Masterbating with a comb... ouch!

My aunts (2)

verifine (685231) | about a year ago | (#42830245)

Not only did my aunts communicate with sound, there was hardly ever a letup.

Oh, ANTS...

It's meant as humour, folks.... (1)

rts008 (812749) | about a year ago | (#42830313)

Well, that's what they get for stroking their specialized spike with their hind legs.
Every /.'er knows you use the 'hand appendage' of the arm for stroking....oh well, what do girls know anyhow. ;-)

Adam Ant (1, Funny)

Tx (96709) | about a year ago | (#42830309)

Adam Ant [wikipedia.org] definitely made a lot of noise. Not sure if you would class it as communication though.

Re:Adam Ant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42837859)

Not to be confused with Atom Ant [wikipedia.org] who also made a lot of noise.

Muhahaha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42831767)

So make a sound jammer, then unleash the predators amongst them.

Forget propelly drones! The ant's the thing! (1)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about a year ago | (#42831871)

By simple acoustic triangulation I can project the sounds of multiple ants in distress with the unique genetic signature of each colony. I can create a massive attack response towards a position that moves over time.

Utilizing software I have secretly embedded in the systems of all major cellphone carriers and utility smart meter control systems, I can detune and modulate the RF emissions of cell towers and power lines to generate beat effects in the audible range. In areas visible to five or more transmitters I can focus this phenomenon down to the square centimeter.

Today's exercise involves the 'big large' supercolony of Argentine ants that encompasses the entire California coast. Cell coverage is excellent in this area. A dynamic network of five million 'ant in distress' discrete loci has begun to draw local colonies southward and northward to converge at a certain point of my choosing.

I begin by projecting signals at the farthest reaches of the supercolony and as the tide of ants moves across each region locally tagged signals gather local colonies to join them. The Argentines perceive themselves to be genetically related and there is no aggression response between them, only cooperation during their long journey.

The 'ant in distress' is nearby, their instinct says. We are almost there! And so they are, step by step, they are 'almost there' for a thousand miles. Ants are tuned in to the big picture but they don't have good heads for subtle details.

It seems that the apparent locus of distress is converging on your house.

I am the new Willard. My conquest of Planet Earth will be slow yet inexorable.

Oh... and sorry about all those dropped calls and crappy 4G performance.

Only one Genus? (1)

omfglearntoplay (1163771) | about a year ago | (#42836337)

From the Article:
began to notice that adults in some ant genuses, such as Myrmica, which contains more than 200 diverse species found across Europe and Asia, made noise. ...
  thought it odd that mature pupae would have the capability to produce sound but remain silent. So he and his colleagues listened in to a group of Myrmica scabrinodis ants. These 4- to 5-millimeter-long, reddish-brown ants are commonly found in northern Europe

Ants are pretty fucking awesome (1)

ahabswhale (1189519) | about a year ago | (#42841709)

I highly recommend picking a couple of books on the subject as it will be well worth your time. They are probably the most interesting creatures on this planet.

Bad Pun Alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42842329)

Ants use them to communicate with uncles.

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