Social Question

GeorgeGee's avatar

If you squish an ant, why do his buddies take his body back to the nest?

Asked by GeorgeGee (4898 points ) October 12th, 2010

What do they do with the dead ants?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

9 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Well, to get the real down low you’d have to ask an ant I imagine.

I like the idea that my community wouldn’t leave me mouldering on the roadside.
I believe some species cannibalize their dead comrades, or the queen sends them to the nursery for the little grubby ants. lol

Fred931's avatar

@Coloma That would be my guess. Dead organism = food, which is simple enough. The genus Odontomachus contains carnivorous ants, so I believe consuming the ant is a sensible purpose for hauling it back to the nest.

Mikewlf337's avatar

Probobly eat it

diavolobella's avatar

They take him back to the nest so that they can mourn him with dirges, wails of sorrow and tearful remembrances. Then they wrap him in itty bitty strips of cloth, decorate him with miniature pieces of jewelry, place him on a teeny tiny pyre and set him ablaze. After that, they curse your name and begin to plot their revenge!!!

gasman's avatar

E. O. Wilson, when he was young, ”…observed that when ants die — and if they’re not crushed and torn apart — they just lie there, sometimes upside down, feet in the air, while their sister ants (almost all ants in a colony are ladies) walk right by without a glance. That is until about two days after an ant’s passing, Ed discovered, when the corpse appears to emit a chemical signal that changes the living ants’ behavior dramatically.

All of a sudden what was once a pile of gunk on the colony floor becomes a ‘Problem to Be Solved.’ Once the signal is in the air, any ant that happens by grabs the corpse and carries it through the colony to a refuse pile designated the graveyard and dumps it on a mound of also-dead ants.

Finally, after much sifting and mixing, [he] discovered that oleic acid — just a teeny drop of it — was all the ants had to sniff to think “DEAD!” And, because he could — Ed had a colony parked in his Harvard lab so he could watch them endlessly — one day he took a drop of the chemical and gently deposited it on an ant that had the misfortune of walking by.
——-
As for ants bringing dead ant bodies into the nest, it’s probably added to the food pile for the benefit of the colony, along with bits of grasshopper legs and moth wings. I think to an ant, “parts is parts.”

Coloma's avatar

It’s an ant eat ant world.

josie's avatar

They are not his buddies. They are hungry critters

chocolatechip's avatar

@gasman

I found it very interesting that the “dead” ant knew what was going on and tried to clean itself. It would seem to suggest that the reaction to the oleic acid is not purely instinctual – that the ants know there is some substance responsible for letting them know when an ant is dead. Cool.

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