According to scientists’ new discovery, ants use body odor to identify enemies and to differentiate between the various members of their community. The new discovery sheds additional light on the techniques that this species uses to better organize itself, researchers have concluded.
Ants are some of the most studied and praised insects because they have the ability to carry massive loads of food even though mother nature did not endow them with large bodies. The recent experiments that experts at the University of California have made prove that ants have other hidden abilities that we may not be aware of.
Their long antennas function as highly sensitive and advanced olfactory sensors informing the bugs that they may be in danger or that a close friend is in their immediate vicinity. This finding has been made with the help of electrophysiology, a process presupposing the use of electrodes on ants to determine their ability to recognize odors and to react to them.
Scientists have estimated that ants can recognize even very low volatile hydrocarbons, which are usually sensed when a person is very close to us. This way, the ant knows whether it is dealing with a friend or an enemy.
The respondents that have been used in the experiment were handed sugary water every time a new odor has been identified. Results have shown that ants managed to remember hydrocarbons and to associate them to the sugary water; thus, proving that they can smell objects and persons around them.
Bugs’ antennas were long thought to offer them orientation skills. Scientists used to think that the small sensors in their antennas inform bugs of possible objects, persons and food in their proximity. This study has clearly proven that antennas are used for smell not for orientation.
Scientists have further stated, based on the new discovery they have made, that the highly sensitive olfactory sense of ants is usually used to distinguish between the members of a colony. Based on the ant body odor, bugs can identify their Queen and make the difference between it and other workers of the colony, whose odor does not contain pheromones.
Although additional tests may be required to prove this hypothesis, researchers think ants rely on their smell to separate community members from intruders. Those bugs that do not bear the same odor peculiarities as other members of their group could be attacked to ensure the safety of the colony, researchers have concluded.
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