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Antopolis

August 9, 2012

Eva Gusnowski

Ants are probably one of the most industrious species that has evolved. Ever. I don’t know if anyone else has seen a complete ant colony migration, but it’s pretty incredible to see. And of course you’ve all read about the fluid properties of a group of fire ants and their rafting qualities.

Not only do ants dig dug their way in complete darkness, but the resulting nest is an amazing network of highways and chambers. But, in order to find out the nest structure underground, you can’t just simply look at an ant farm to get the right idea. Rather, that takes a little bit more work and just a tad more science.

 

ant farm gel

A number of studies have looked at the structure of the underground nests of a variety of ant species. These have included using dental plaster or waxes to fill up existing ant colonies in order to generate a mould of the nest. What they have been able to find in this way are ant cities that extend to 8 levels of chambers joined by vertical tunnels.

Walter R. Tschinkel, science in seconds

Tschinkel, J Insect Sci. 2011; 11: 105.

One such leafcutter ant colony was filled with cement in order to find out its ultimate structure by Bert Hölldobler and colleagues. What was surprising was the fact that the cement just kept disappearing down the ant hole, almost as if it was heading straight to wonderland. Eventually, the ant colony topped off around 10 tons of cement. The nest that was excavated from this was just incredible. But don’t take my word for it, watch the clip for yourself:

 



Hopefully this Antopolis also has a SuperAnt.

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