Ants are not the drudge workers we thought they were

LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – Ants running around with miniature bar codes on their backs have news for us: the world of worker ants who are essentially slaves doing the same drudgery work all their lives is fiction. University of Lausanne professor Laurent Keller and his research team have discovered that ants change their jobs throughout their careers, adapting as time goes on to changing needs. What isn’t yet clear is whether the changing needs are their own as they age or the colony’s, or both.

It’s also not yet clear how they know when and how to adapt, but Keller suggests there is now evidence to show they are communicating using hormones and their antenna.

The team compiled millions of data on the work ants do, after bar-coding them, filming for six weeks and feeding their movements into a computer.

Keller is the author of “The Lives of Ants”, published in 2009 and in paperback in 2010.
RTS carries a video showing the research group and the ants at work