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Ant

Ant

Overview
Ants are social
Eusociality
Eusociality is a term used for the highest level of social organization in a hierarchical classification....

 insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s of the family Formicidae (icon) and, along with the related wasp
Wasp
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their...

s and bee
Bee
Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila...

s, belong to the order Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera is one of the largest orders of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees and ants. There are over 130,000 recognized species, with many more remaining to be described. The name refers to the heavy wings of the insects, and is derived from the Ancient Greek ὑμήν : membrane and...

. Ants evolved
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous
Cretaceous
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

 period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified
Evolutionary radiation
An evolutionary radiation is an increase in taxonomic diversity or morphological disparity, due to adaptive change or the opening of ecospace. Radiations may affect one clade or many, and be rapid or gradual; where they are rapid, and driven by a single lineage's adaptation to their environment,...

 after the rise of flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

s. More than 12,500 out of an estimated total of 22,000 species have been classified.
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Encyclopedia
Ants are social
Eusociality
Eusociality is a term used for the highest level of social organization in a hierarchical classification....

 insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s of the family Formicidae (icon) and, along with the related wasp
Wasp
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their...

s and bee
Bee
Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila...

s, belong to the order Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera is one of the largest orders of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees and ants. There are over 130,000 recognized species, with many more remaining to be described. The name refers to the heavy wings of the insects, and is derived from the Ancient Greek ὑμήν : membrane and...

. Ants evolved
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous
Cretaceous
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

 period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified
Evolutionary radiation
An evolutionary radiation is an increase in taxonomic diversity or morphological disparity, due to adaptive change or the opening of ecospace. Radiations may affect one clade or many, and be rapid or gradual; where they are rapid, and driven by a single lineage's adaptation to their environment,...

 after the rise of flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

s. More than 12,500 out of an estimated total of 22,000 species have been classified. They are easily identified by their elbowed antennae and a distinctive node-like structure that forms a slender waist.

Ants form colonies
Ant colony
An ant colony is an underground lair where ants live, eat and mate. Colonies consist of a series of underground chambers, connected to each other and the surface of the earth by small tunnels. There are rooms for nurseries, food storage, and mating...

 that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies which may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals. These larger colonies consist mostly of sterile wingless females forming castes of "workers", "soldiers", or other specialised groups. Nearly all ant colonies also have some fertile males called "drones" and one or more fertile females called "queens
Queen ant
A queen ant is an adult, reproducing female ant in an ant colony; generally she will be the mother of all the other ants in that colony. Some female ants do not need to mate to produce offspring, reproducing through asexual parthenogenesis or cloning and all of those offspring will be female.Ant...

". The colonies are sometimes described as superorganism
Superorganism
A superorganism is an organism consisting of many organisms. This is usually meant to be a social unit of eusocial animals, where division of labour is highly specialised and where individuals are not able to survive by themselves for extended periods of time. Ants are the best-known example of...

s because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, collectively working together to support the colony.

Ants have colonised almost every landmass on Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

. The only places lacking indigenous ants are Antarctica and a few remote or inhospitable islands. Ants thrive in most ecosystems, and may form 15–25% of the terrestrial animal
Terrestrial animal
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land , as compared with aquatic animals, which live predominantly or entirely in the water , or amphibians, which rely on a combination of aquatic and terrestrial habitats...

 biomass
Biomass (ecology)
Biomass, in ecology, is the mass of living biological organisms in a given area or ecosystem at a given time. Biomass can refer to species biomass, which is the mass of one or more species, or to community biomass, which is the mass of all species in the community. It can include microorganisms,...

. Their success in so many environments has been attributed to their social organisation and their ability to modify habitats, tap resources, and defend themselves. Their long co-evolution
Co-evolution
In biology, coevolution is "the change of a biological object triggered by the change of a related object." Coevolution can occur at many biological levels: it can be as microscopic as correlated mutations between amino acids in a protein, or as macroscopic as covarying traits between different...

 with other species has led to mimetic, commensal
Commensalism
In ecology, commensalism is a class of relationship between two organisms where one organism benefits but the other is neutral...

, parasitic
Parasitism
Parasitism is a type of symbiotic relationship between organisms of different species where one organism, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the other, the host. Traditionally parasite referred to organisms with lifestages that needed more than one host . These are now called macroparasites...

, and mutualistic relationships.

Ant societies have division of labour
Division of labour
Division of labour is the specialisation of cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed tasks and likeroles. Historically an increasingly complex division of labour is closely associated with the growth of total output and trade, the rise of capitalism, and of the complexity of industrialisation...

, communication between individuals, and an ability to solve complex problems
Problem solving
Problem solving is a mental process and is part of the larger problem process that includes problem finding and problem shaping. Consideredthe most complex of all intellectual functions, problem solving has been defined as higher-order cognitive process that requires the modulation and control of...

. These parallels with human societies
Civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

 have long been an inspiration and subject of study.

Many human cultures make use of ants in cuisine, medication and rituals. Some species are valued in their role as biological pest control
Biological pest control
Biological control of pests in agriculture is a method of controlling pests that relies on predation, parasitism, herbivory, or other natural mechanisms...

 agents. However, their ability to exploit resources brings ants into conflict with humans, as they can damage crops and invade buildings. Some species, such as the red imported fire ant
Red imported fire ant
See main article Fire ant.The red imported fire ant , or simply RIFA, is one of over 280 species in the widespread genus Solenopsis...

, are regarded as invasive species
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

, establishing themselves in areas where they are accidentally introduced.

Etymology


The word ant is derived from of Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 which is derived from of Old English and is related to the Old High German
Old High German
The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

 , hence the modern German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 . All of these words come from West Germanic }, and the original meaning of the word was "the biter" (from Proto-Germanic }, "off, away" + } "cut"). The family name Formicidae is derived from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

  ("ant") from which the words in other Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

 such as the Portuguese , Italian , Spanish , Romanian and French are derived. It has been hypothetized that a Proto-Indo-European
Proto-Indo-European language
The Proto-Indo-European language is the reconstructed common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, spoken by the Proto-Indo-Europeans...

 word *morwi- was used, cf. Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 vamrah, Latin formīca, Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 myrmex, Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic or Old Church Slavic was the first literary Slavic language, first developed by the 9th century Byzantine Greek missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius who were credited with standardizing the language and using it for translating the Bible and other Ancient Greek...

 mraviji, Old Irish moirb, Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 maurr.

Taxonomy and evolution




The family Formicidae belongs to the order Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera
Hymenoptera is one of the largest orders of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees and ants. There are over 130,000 recognized species, with many more remaining to be described. The name refers to the heavy wings of the insects, and is derived from the Ancient Greek ὑμήν : membrane and...

, which also includes sawflies
Sawfly
Sawfly is the common name for insects belonging to suborder Symphyta of the order Hymenoptera. Sawflies are distinguishable from most other Hymenoptera by the broad connection between the abdomen and the thorax, and by their caterpillar-like larvae...

, bee
Bee
Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila...

s and wasp
Wasp
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their...

s. Ants evolved from a lineage within the vespoid
Vespoidea
Vespoidea is a superfamily of order Hymenoptera of class Insecta, although older taxonomic schemes may vary in this categorization, particularly in their recognition of a now-obsolete superfamily Scolioidea...

 wasps. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that ants arose in the mid-Cretaceous
Cretaceous
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

 period about 110 to 130 million years ago. After the rise of flowering plant
Flowering plant
The flowering plants , also known as Angiospermae or Magnoliophyta, are the most diverse group of land plants. Angiosperms are seed-producing plants like the gymnosperms and can be distinguished from the gymnosperms by a series of synapomorphies...

s about 100 million years ago they diversified and assumed ecological dominance around 60 million years ago.
In 1966, E. O. Wilson
E. O. Wilson
Edward Osborne Wilson is an American biologist, researcher , theorist , naturalist and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, the study of ants....

 and his colleagues identified the fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

 remains of an ant (Sphecomyrma freyi
Sphecomyrma freyi
Sphecomyrma is an extinct genus of ant which inhabited the northern hemisphere of the supercontinent Laurasia approximately 80 mya in the Cretaceous. It is one of the earliest known species of ant....

) that lived in the Cretaceous period. The specimen, trapped in amber dating
Absolute dating
Absolute dating is the process of determining an approximate computed age in archaeology and geology. Some scientists prefer the terms chronometric or calendar dating, as use of the word "absolute" implies an unwarranted certainty and precision...

 back to more than 80 million years ago, has features of both ants and wasps. Sphecomyrma was probably a ground forager but some suggest on the basis of groups such as the Leptanillinae
Leptanillinae
Leptanillinae is a subfamily of ants. They are further divided into the tribes Anomalomyrmini and Leptanillini.In all Leptanillini the larva feed their hemolymph to the queen through specialized processes on their prothorax and third abdominal segment...

 and Martialinae that primitive ants were likely to have been predators underneath the surface of the soil.

During the Cretaceous period, a few species of primitive ants ranged widely on the Laurasia
Laurasia
In paleogeography, Laurasia was the northernmost of two supercontinents that formed part of the Pangaea supercontinent from approximately...

n super-continent (the northern hemisphere). They were scarce in comparison to other insects, representing about 1% of the insect population. Ants became dominant after adaptive radiation
Adaptive radiation
In evolutionary biology, adaptive radiation is the evolution of ecological and phenotypic diversity within a rapidly multiplying lineage. Starting with a recent single ancestor, this process results in the speciation and phenotypic adaptation of an array of species exhibiting different...

 at the beginning of the Paleogene period. By the Oligocene
Oligocene
The Oligocene is a geologic epoch of the Paleogene Period and extends from about 34 million to 23 million years before the present . As with other older geologic periods, the rock beds that define the period are well identified but the exact dates of the start and end of the period are slightly...

 and Miocene
Miocene
The Miocene is a geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about . The Miocene was named by Sir Charles Lyell. Its name comes from the Greek words and and means "less recent" because it has 18% fewer modern sea invertebrates than the Pliocene. The Miocene follows the Oligocene...

 ants had come to represent 20-40% of all insects found in major fossil deposits. Of the species that lived in the Eocene
Eocene
The Eocene Epoch, lasting from about 56 to 34 million years ago , is a major division of the geologic timescale and the second epoch of the Paleogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Eocene spans the time from the end of the Palaeocene Epoch to the beginning of the Oligocene Epoch. The start of the...

 epoch, approximately one in ten genera survive to the present. Genera surviving today comprise 56% of the genera in Baltic
Baltic region
The terms Baltic region, Baltic Rim countries, and Baltic Rim refer to slightly different combinations of countries in the general area surrounding the Baltic Sea.- Etymology :...

 amber fossils (early Oligocene), and 92% of the genera in Dominican
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

 amber fossils (apparently early Miocene).

Termite
Termite
Termites are a group of eusocial insects that, until recently, were classified at the taxonomic rank of order Isoptera , but are now accepted as the epifamily Termitoidae, of the cockroach order Blattodea...

s, though sometimes called white ants, are not ants and belong to the order Isoptera. Termites are actually more closely related to cockroach
Cockroach
Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattaria or Blattodea, of which about 30 species out of 4,500 total are associated with human habitations...

es and mantids. Termites are eusocial
Eusociality
Eusociality is a term used for the highest level of social organization in a hierarchical classification....

 but differ greatly in the genetics of reproduction. The similar social structure is attributed to convergent evolution
Convergent evolution
Convergent evolution describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.The wing is a classic example of convergent evolution in action. Although their last common ancestor did not have wings, both birds and bats do, and are capable of powered flight. The wings are...

. Velvet ant
Mutillidae
Mutillidae are a family of more than 3,000 species of wasp whose wingless females resemble ants. Their common name velvet ant refers to their dense pile of hair which most often is bright scarlet or orange but may also be black, white, silver, or gold. Their bright colours serve as aposematic signals...

s look like large ants, but are wingless female wasp
Wasp
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their...

s.

Distribution and diversity

Region
Region
Region is most commonly found as a term used in terrestrial and astrophysics sciences also an area, notably among the different sub-disciplines of geography, studied by regional geographers. Regions consist of subregions that contain clusters of like areas that are distinctive by their uniformity...

 
Number of
species 
Neotropics  2162
Nearctic  580
Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 
180
Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 
2500
Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

 
2080
Melanesia
Melanesia
Melanesia is a subregion of Oceania extending from the western end of the Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Fiji. The region comprises most of the islands immediately north and northeast of Australia...

 
275
Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 
985
Polynesia
Polynesia
Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...

 
42

Ants are found on all continents except Antarctica, and only a few large islands such as Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

, Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

, parts of Polynesia and the Hawaiian Islands
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

 lack native ant species. Ants occupy a wide range of ecological niche
Ecological niche
In ecology, a niche is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in its ecosystem to each other; e.g. a dolphin could potentially be in another ecological niche from one that travels in a different pod if the members of these pods utilize significantly different food...

s, and are able to exploit a wide range of food resources either as direct or indirect herbivores, predators and scavengers. Most species are omnivorous generalists
Generalist and specialist species
A generalist species is able to thrive in a wide variety of environmental conditions and can make use of a variety of different resources . A specialist species can only thrive in a narrow range of environmental conditions or has a limited diet. Most organisms do not all fit neatly into either...

 but a few are specialist feeders. Their ecological dominance may be measured by their biomass
Biomass (ecology)
Biomass, in ecology, is the mass of living biological organisms in a given area or ecosystem at a given time. Biomass can refer to species biomass, which is the mass of one or more species, or to community biomass, which is the mass of all species in the community. It can include microorganisms,...

, and estimates in different environments suggest that they contribute 15-20% (on average and nearly 25% in the tropics) of the total terrestrial animal biomass, which exceeds that of the vertebrates.

Ants range in size from 0.75 millimetre, the largest species being the fossil Titanomyrma giganteum
Titanomyrma
Titanomyrma was a genus of giant ant. The latest species to be discovered, T. lubei, was described in 2011, when a fossilized winged queen ant, comparable in size to hummingbirds, was found in Wyoming. This fossil is the first body of a giant ant found in the Western Hemisphere...

, the queen of which was 6 centimetres (2.4 in) long with a wingspan of 15 centimetres (5.9 in). Ants vary in colour; most ants are red or black, but a few species are green and some tropical species have a metallic lustre. More than 12,000 species are currently known (with upper estimates of about 22,000) (see the article List of ant genera), with the greatest diversity in the tropics. Taxonomic studies continue to resolve the classification and systematics of ants. Online databases of ant species, including AntBase and the Hymenoptera Name Server, help to keep track of the known and newly described species. The relative ease with which ants can be sampled and studied in ecosystems has made them useful as indicator species
Indicator species
An indicator species is any biological species that defines a trait or characteristic of the environment. For example, a species may delineate an ecoregion or indicate an environmental condition such as a disease outbreak, pollution, species competition or climate change...

 in biodiversity
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

 studies.

Morphology


Ants are distinct in their morphology
Morphology (biology)
In biology, morphology is a branch of bioscience dealing with the study of the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features....

 from other insects in having elbowed antennae
Antenna (biology)
Antennae in biology have historically been paired appendages used for sensing in arthropods. More recently, the term has also been applied to cilium structures present in most cell types of eukaryotes....

, metapleural gland
Metapleural gland
Metapleural glands are secretory glands that are unique to ants and basal in the evolutionary history of ants. They are responsible for the production of an antibiotic fluid that then collects in in a reservoir on the posterior of the ant's alitrunk...

s, and a strong constriction of their second abdominal
Abdomen
In vertebrates such as mammals the abdomen constitutes the part of the body between the thorax and pelvis. The region enclosed by the abdomen is termed the abdominal cavity...

 segment into a node-like petiole
Petiole (insect)
In entomology, the term petiole is most commonly used to refer to the constricted first metasomal segment of members of the Hymenopteran suborder Apocrita; it may be used to refer to other insects with similar body shapes, where the metasomal base is constricted...

. The head, mesosoma
Mesosoma
The mesosoma is the middle part of the body, or tagma, of arthropods whose body is composed of three parts, the other two being the prosoma and the metasoma. It bears the legs, and, in the case of winged insects, the wings....

, and metasoma
Metasoma
The metasoma is the posterior part of the body, or tagma, of arthropods whose body is composed of three parts, the other two being the prosoma and the mesosoma. In insects, it contains most of the digestive tract, respiratory system, and circulatory system, and the apical segments are typically...

 are the three distinct body segments. The petiole forms a narrow waist between their mesosoma (thorax
Thorax (insect anatomy)
The thorax is the mid section of the insect body. It holds the head, legs, wings and abdomen. It is also called mesosoma in other arthropods....

 plus the first abdominal segment, which is fused to it) and gaster
Gaster
The gaster is the bulbous posterior portion of the metasoma found in Apocrita Hymenoptera . This begins with abdominal segment III on most ants, but some make a postpetiole out of segment III, in which case the gaster begins with abdominal segment IV....

 (abdomen less the abdominal segments in the petiole). The petiole can be formed by one or two nodes (the second alone, or the second and third abdominal segments).
Like other insects, ants have an exoskeleton
Exoskeleton
An exoskeleton is the external skeleton that supports and protects an animal's body, in contrast to the internal skeleton of, for example, a human. In popular usage, some of the larger kinds of exoskeletons are known as "shells". Examples of exoskeleton animals include insects such as grasshoppers...

, an external covering that provides a protective casing around the body and a point of attachment for muscles, in contrast to the internal skeletons of humans and other vertebrate
Vertebrate
Vertebrates are animals that are members of the subphylum Vertebrata . Vertebrates are the largest group of chordates, with currently about 58,000 species described. Vertebrates include the jawless fishes, bony fishes, sharks and rays, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds...

s. Insects do not have lungs; oxygen and other gases like carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms covalently bonded to a single carbon atom...

 pass through their exoskeleton through tiny valves called spiracle
Spiracle
Spiracles are openings on the surface of some animals that usually lead to respiratory systems.-Vertebrates:The spiracle is a small hole behind each eye that opens to the mouth in some fishes. In the primitive jawless fish the first gill opening immediately behind the mouth is essentially similar...

s. Insects also lack closed blood vessels; instead, they have a long, thin, perforated tube along the top of the body (called the "dorsal aorta") that functions like a heart, and pumps haemolymph towards the head, thus driving the circulation of the internal fluids. The nervous system
Nervous system
The nervous system is an organ system containing a network of specialized cells called neurons that coordinate the actions of an animal and transmit signals between different parts of its body. In most animals the nervous system consists of two parts, central and peripheral. The central nervous...

 consists of a ventral nerve cord
Ventral nerve cord
The ventral nerve cord makes up the nervous system of some phyla of the invertebrates, particularly within the nematodes, annelids and the arthropods. It usually consists of cerebral ganglia anteriorly with the nerve cords running down the ventral plane of the organism...

 that runs the length of the body, with several ganglia and branches along the way reaching into the extremities of the appendages.
An ant's head contains many sensory organs. Like most insects, ants have compound eyes made from numerous tiny lenses attached together. Ants' eyes are good for acute movement detection but do not give a high resolution
Optical resolution
Optical resolution describes the ability of an imaging system to resolve detail in the object that is being imaged.An imaging system may have many individual components including a lens and recording and display components...

. They also have three small ocelli
Ocellus
A simple eye refers to a type of eye design or optical arrangement that contains a single lens which detect light. A "simple eye" is so-called in distinction from a multi-lensed "compound eye", and is not necessarily at all simple in the usual sense of the word...

 (simple eyes) on the top of the head that detect light levels and polarization. Compared to vertebrates, most ants have poor-to-mediocre eyesight and a few subterranean species are completely blind. Some ants such as Australia's bulldog ant
Myrmecia
Myrmecia, often called bulldog ants, bull ants, inch ants, sergeant ants, jumper ants or jack-jumpers , is a genus of ants. Bull ants can grow to over in length, with the smallest species long...

, however, have exceptional vision. Two antennae
Antenna (biology)
Antennae in biology have historically been paired appendages used for sensing in arthropods. More recently, the term has also been applied to cilium structures present in most cell types of eukaryotes....

 ("feelers") are attached to the head; these organs detect chemicals, air currents and vibrations; they are also used to transmit and receive signals through touch. The head has two strong jaws, the mandibles
Mandible (insect)
Insect mandibles are a pair of appendages near the insect’s mouth, and the most anterior of the three pairs of oral appendages . Their function is typically to grasp, crush, or cut the insect’s food, or to defend against predators or rivals...

, used to carry food, manipulate objects, construct nests, and for defence. In some species a small pocket (infrabuccal chamber) inside the mouth stores food, so it can be passed to other ants or their larvae.

All six legs
Arthropod leg
The arthropod leg is a form of jointed appendage of arthropods, usually used for walking. Many of the terms used for arthropod leg segments are of Latin origin, and may be confused with terms for bones: coxa , trochanter , femur, tibia, tarsus, ischium, metatarsus, carpus, dactylus ,...

 are attached to the mesosoma
Mesosoma
The mesosoma is the middle part of the body, or tagma, of arthropods whose body is composed of three parts, the other two being the prosoma and the metasoma. It bears the legs, and, in the case of winged insects, the wings....

 ("thorax"). A hooked claw at the end of each leg helps ants to climb and hang onto surfaces. Most queens and male ants have wings
Insect wing
Insects are the only group of invertebrates known to have evolved flight. Insects possess some remarkable flight characteristics and abilities, still far superior to attempts by humans to replicate their capabilities. Even our understanding of the aerodynamics of flexible, flapping wings and how...

; queens shed the wings after the nuptial flight
Nuptial flight
Nuptial flight is an important phase in the reproduction of most ant, termite and some bee species. During the flight, virgin queens mate with males and then land to start a new colony, or, in the case of honey bees, continue the planned succession of an existing hived colony.- Before the flight :A...

, leaving visible stubs, a distinguishing feature of queens. However, wingless queens (ergatoids) and males occur in a few species.

The metasoma
Metasoma
The metasoma is the posterior part of the body, or tagma, of arthropods whose body is composed of three parts, the other two being the prosoma and the mesosoma. In insects, it contains most of the digestive tract, respiratory system, and circulatory system, and the apical segments are typically...

 (the "abdomen") of the ant houses important internal organs, including those of the reproductive, respiratory (tracheae) and excretory systems. Workers of many species have their egg-laying structures
Ovipositor
The ovipositor is an organ used by some animals for oviposition, i.e., the laying of eggs. It consists of a maximum of three pairs of appendages formed to transmit the egg, to prepare a place for it, and to place it properly...

 modified into stings
Stinger (organ)
A sting, sometimes called a stinger in the US, is a sharp organ or body part found in various animals that delivers some kind of venom . A true sting differs from other piercing structures in that it pierces by its own action and injects venom, as opposed to teeth, which pierce by the force of...

 that are used for subduing prey
Predation
In ecology, predation describes a biological interaction where a predator feeds on its prey . Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on them, but the act of predation always results in the death of its prey and the eventual absorption of the prey's tissue through consumption...

 and defending their nests.

Polymorphism



In the colonies of a few ant species, there are physical castes—workers in distinct size-classes, called minor, median, and major workers. Often the larger ants have disproportionately larger heads, and correspondingly stronger mandibles
Mandible (insect)
Insect mandibles are a pair of appendages near the insect’s mouth, and the most anterior of the three pairs of oral appendages . Their function is typically to grasp, crush, or cut the insect’s food, or to defend against predators or rivals...

. Such individuals are sometimes called "soldier" ants because their stronger mandibles make them more effective in fighting, although they are still workers and their "duties" typically do not vary greatly from the minor or median workers. In a few species the median workers are absent, creating a sharp divide between the minors and majors. Weaver ant
Weaver ant
Weaver ants or Green ants are eusocial insects of the family Formicidae . Weaver ants are obligately arboreal and are known for their unique nest building behaviour where workers construct nests by weaving together leaves using larval silk...

s, for example, have a distinct bimodal size distribution. Some other species show continuous variation in the size of workers. The smallest and largest workers in Pheidologeton diversus show nearly a 500-fold difference in their dry-weights. Workers cannot mate; however, because of the haplodiploid sex-determination system in ants, workers of a number of species can lay unfertilised eggs that become fully fertile haploid males. The role of workers may change with their age and in some species, such as honeypot ants, young workers are fed until their gasters are distended, and act as living food storage vessels. These food storage workers are called repletes. This polymorphism in morphology and behaviour of workers was initially thought to be determined by environmental factors such as nutrition and hormones which led to different developmental paths
Morphogenesis
Morphogenesis , is the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape...

; however, genetic differences between worker castes have been noted in Acromyrmex sp. These polymorphisms are caused by relatively small genetic changes; differences in a single gene of Solenopsis invicta can decide whether the colony will have single or multiple queens. The Australian jack jumper ant
Jack jumper ant
The jack jumper ant, hopper ant, jumper ant or jumping jack, Myrmecia pilosula, is a species of bull ant that is native to Australia...

 (Myrmecia pilosula) has only a single pair of chromosomes (males have just one chromosome as they are haploid), the lowest number known for any animal, making it an interesting subject for studies in the genetics and developmental biology of social insects.

Development and reproduction


The life of an ant starts from an egg
Egg (biology)
An egg is an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins to develop. In most birds, reptiles, insects, molluscs, fish, and monotremes, an egg is the zygote, resulting from fertilization of the ovum, which is expelled from the body and permitted to develop outside the body until the developing...

. If the egg is fertilised, the progeny will be female (diploid); if not, it will be male (haploid). Ants develop by complete metamorphosis with the larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

l stages passing through a pupa
Pupa
A pupa is the life stage of some insects undergoing transformation. The pupal stage is found only in holometabolous insects, those that undergo a complete metamorphosis, going through four life stages; embryo, larva, pupa and imago...

l stage before emerging as an adult. The larva is largely immobile and is fed and cared for by workers. Food is given to the larvae by trophallaxis
Trophallaxis
Trophallaxis is the transfer of food or other fluids among members of a community through mouth-to-mouth or anus-to-mouth feeding. It is most highly developed in social insects such as ants, termites, wasps and bees. The word was introduced by the entomologist William Morton Wheeler in 1918...

, a process in which an ant regurgitates
Regurgitation (digestion)
Regurgitation is the expulsion of material from the mouth, pharynx, or esophagus, usually characterized by the presence of undigested food or blood.Regurgitation is used by a number of species to feed their young...

 liquid food held in its crop
Crop (anatomy)
A crop is a thin-walled expanded portion of the alimentary tract used for the storage of food prior to digestion that is found in many animals, including gastropods, earthworms, leeches, insects, birds, and even some dinosaurs.- Bees :Cropping is used by bees to temporarily store nectar of flowers...

. This is also how adults share food, stored in the "social stomach", among themselves. Larvae may also be provided with solid food such as trophic egg
Trophic egg
A trophic egg is an egg which is not laid for reproduction but for nutrition, often for offspring hatched from regular eggs. Trophic eggs are usually unfertilised....

s, pieces of prey and seeds brought back by foraging workers and may even be transported directly to captured prey in some species. The larvae grow through a series of moult
Moult
In biology, moulting or molting , also known as sloughing, shedding, or for some species, ecdysis, is the manner in which an animal routinely casts off a part of its body , either at specific times of year, or at specific points in its life cycle.Moulting can involve the epidermis , pelage...

s and enter the pupal stage. The pupa has the appendages free and not fused to the body as in a butterfly pupa. The differentiation into queens and workers (which are both female), and different castes of workers (when they exist), is influenced in some species by the nutrition the larvae obtain. Genetic influences and the control of gene expression
Polyphenism
A polyphenic trait is a trait for which multiple, discrete phenotypes can arise from a single genotype as a result of differing environmental conditions.-Definition:A polyphenism is a biological mechanism that causes a trait to be polyphenic...

 by the developmental environment are complex and the determination of caste continues to be a subject of research. Larvae and pupae need to be kept at fairly constant temperatures to ensure proper development, and so are often moved around the various brood chambers within the colony.

A new worker spends the first few days of its adult life caring for the queen and young. It then graduates to digging and other nest work, and later to defending the nest and foraging. These changes are sometimes fairly sudden, and define what are called temporal castes. An explanation for the sequence is suggested by the high casualties involved in foraging, making it an acceptable risk only for ants that are older and are likely to die soon of natural causes.

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 can 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. The winged male ants, called drones, emerge from pupae along with the breeding females (although some species, like army ant
Army ant
The name army ant is applied to over 200 ant species, in different lineages, due to their aggressive predatory foraging groups, known as "raids", in which huge numbers of ants forage simultaneously over a certain area, attacking prey en masse.Another shared feature is that, unlike most ant...

s, have wingless queens), and do nothing in life except eat and mate. Most ants are univoltine, producing a new generation each year. During the species specific breeding period, new reproductives, winged males and females leave the colony in what is called a nuptial flight
Nuptial flight
Nuptial flight is an important phase in the reproduction of most ant, termite and some bee species. During the flight, virgin queens mate with males and then land to start a new colony, or, in the case of honey bees, continue the planned succession of an existing hived colony.- Before the flight :A...

. Typically, the males take flight before the females. Males then use visual cues to find a common mating ground, for example, a landmark such as a pine tree to which other males in the area converge. Males secrete a mating pheromone that females follow. Females of some species mate with just one male, but in some others they may mate with anywhere from one to ten or more different males. Mated females then seek a suitable place to begin a colony. There, they break off their wings and begin to lay and care for eggs. The females store the sperm
Spermatozoon
A spermatozoon is a motile sperm cell, or moving form of the haploid cell that is the male gamete. A spermatozoon joins an ovum to form a zygote...

 they obtain during their nuptial flight to selectively fertilise future eggs. The first workers to hatch are weak and smaller than later workers, but they begin to serve the colony immediately. They enlarge the nest, forage for food and care for the other eggs. This is how new colonies start in most species. Species that have multiple queens may have a queen leaving the nest along with some workers to found a colony at a new site, a process akin to swarming in honeybees.


A wide range of reproductive strategies have been noted in ant species. Females of many species are known to be capable of reproducing asexually through thelytokous parthenogenesis
Thelytoky
Thelytoky comes from the Greek thely, meaning "female", and tokos, meaning "birth". Thelytokous parthenogenesis is a type of parthenogenesis in which females are produced from unfertilized eggs. It is rare in the animal kingdom and has only been reported in about 1500 species...

 and one species, Mycocepurus smithii
Mycocepurus smithii
Mycocepurus smithii is an attine fungus-growing ant from Latin America whose species consists exclusively of females which reproduce asexually. The queen reproduces by parthenogenesis and all ants in a colony are female clones of the queen. The ants cultivate a garden of fungus inside their colony...

is known to be all-female.

Ant colonies can be long-lived. The queens can live for up to 30 years, and workers live from 1 to 3 years. Males, however, are more transitory, and survive only a few weeks. Ant queens are estimated to live 100 times longer than solitary insects of a similar size.

Ants are active all year long in the tropics but, in cooler regions, survive the winter in a state of dormancy or inactivity. The forms of inactivity are varied and some temperate species have larvae going into the inactive state (diapause
Diapause
Diapause is the delay in development in response to regularly and recurring periods of adverse environmental conditions. It is considered to be a physiological state of dormancy with very specific initiating and inhibiting conditions...

), while in others, the adults alone pass the winter in a state of reduced activity.

Communication



Ants communicate with each other using pheromone
Pheromone
A pheromone is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting outside the body of the secreting individual to impact the behavior of the receiving individual...

s. These chemical signals are more developed in ants than in other hymenopteran groups. Like other insects, ants perceive smells with their long, thin and mobile antennae. The paired antennae provide information about the direction and intensity of scents. Since most ants live on the ground, they use the soil surface to leave pheromone trails that can be followed by other ants. In species that forage in groups, a forager that finds food marks a trail on the way back to the colony; this trail is followed by other ants, these ants then reinforce the trail when they head back with food to the colony. When the food source is exhausted, no new trails are marked by returning ants and the scent slowly dissipates. This behaviour helps ants deal with changes in their environment. For instance, when an established path to a food source is blocked by an obstacle, the foragers leave the path to explore new routes. If an ant is successful, it leaves a new trail marking the shortest route on its return. Successful trails are followed by more ants, reinforcing better routes and gradually finding the best path.

Ants use pheromones for more than just making trails. A crushed ant emits an alarm pheromone that sends nearby ants into an attack frenzy and attracts more ants from further away. Several ant species even use "propaganda pheromones" to confuse enemy ants and make them fight among themselves. Pheromones are produced by a wide range of structures including Dufour's glands, poison glands and glands on the hindgut, pygidium, rectum, sternum and hind tibia. Pheromones are also exchanged mixed with food and passed by trophallaxis
Trophallaxis
Trophallaxis is the transfer of food or other fluids among members of a community through mouth-to-mouth or anus-to-mouth feeding. It is most highly developed in social insects such as ants, termites, wasps and bees. The word was introduced by the entomologist William Morton Wheeler in 1918...

, transferring information within the colony. This allows other ants to detect what task group (e.g., foraging or nest maintenance) other colony members belong to. In ant species with queen castes, workers begin to raise new queens in the colony when the dominant queen stops producing a specific pheromone.

Some ants produce sounds by stridulation
Stridulation
Stridulation is the act of producing sound by rubbing together certain body parts. This behavior is mostly associated with insects, but other animals are known to do this as well, such as a number of species of fishes, snakes and spiders...

, using the gaster segments and their mandibles. Sounds may be used to communicate with colony members or with other species.

Defence

See also Insect defences
Defense in insects
Insects have a wide variety of predators, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, carnivorous plants, and other arthropods. The great majority of individuals born do not survive to reproductive age, with perhaps 50% of this mortality rate attributed to predation. In order to deal with this...


Ants attack and defend themselves by biting and, in many species, by stinging, often injecting or spraying chemicals like formic acid
Formic acid
Formic acid is the simplest carboxylic acid. Its chemical formula is HCOOH or HCO2H. It is an important intermediate in chemical synthesis and occurs naturally, most notably in the venom of bee and ant stings. In fact, its name comes from the Latin word for ant, formica, referring to its early...

. Bullet ants (Paraponera
Paraponera
Paraponera is a genus of ant consisting of a single species, commonly known as the lesser giant hunting ant, conga ant, or bullet ant , named on account of its powerful and potent sting, which is said to be as painful as being shot with a bullet. It inhabits humid lowland rainforests from Nicaragua...

), located in Central
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

 and South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, are considered to have the most painful sting of any insect, although it is usually not fatal to humans. This sting is given the highest rating on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index
Schmidt Sting Pain Index
The Schmidt Sting Pain Index is a pain scale rating the relative pain caused by different Hymenopteran stings. It is mainly the work of Justin O. Schmidt, an entomologist at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Arizona...

. The sting of Jack jumper ant
Jack jumper ant
The jack jumper ant, hopper ant, jumper ant or jumping jack, Myrmecia pilosula, is a species of bull ant that is native to Australia...

s can be fatal, and an antivenom has been developed. Fire ant
Fire ant
Fire ants are a variety of stinging ants with over 285 species worldwide. They have several common names, including ginger ants, tropical fire ants and red ants.- Appearance :...

s, Solenopsis
Fire ant
Fire ants are a variety of stinging ants with over 285 species worldwide. They have several common names, including ginger ants, tropical fire ants and red ants.- Appearance :...

spp., are unique in having a poison sac containing piperidine
Piperidine
Piperidine is an organic compound with the molecular formula 5NH. This heterocyclic amine consists of a six-membered ring containing five methylene units and one nitrogen atom...

 alkaloids. Their stings are painful and can be dangerous to hypersensitive people.

Trap-jaw ants of the genus Odontomachus
Odontomachus
Odontomachus is a genus of carnivorous ants found in the tropics and subtropics throughout the world.-Overview:Commonly known as trap-jaw ants, species in Odontomachus have a pair of large, straight mandibles capable of opening 180 degrees...

are equipped with mandibles called trap-jaws, which snap shut faster than any other predatory appendage
Appendage
In invertebrate biology, an appendage is an external body part, or natural prolongation, that protrudes from an organism's body . It is a general term that covers any of the homologous body parts that may extend from a body segment...

s within the animal kingdom. One study of Odontomachus bauri
Odontomachus bauri
Odontomachus bauri is a species of ponerinae antknown as trap jaw ants. The trap jaw consists of mandibles which contain a spring-loaded catch mechanism....

recorded peak speeds of between 126 and 230 km/h (78 - 143 mph), with the jaws closing within 130 microsecond
Microsecond
A microsecond is an SI unit of time equal to one millionth of a second. Its symbol is µs.A microsecond is equal to 1000 nanoseconds or 1/1000 millisecond...

s on average. The ants were also observed to use their jaws as a catapult
Catapult
A catapult is a device used to throw or hurl a projectile a great distance without the aid of explosive devices—particularly various types of ancient and medieval siege engines. Although the catapult has been used since ancient times, it has proven to be one of the most effective mechanisms during...

 to eject intruders or fling themselves backwards to escape a threat. Before the strike, the ant opens its mandibles extremely widely and locks them in this position by an internal mechanism. Energy is stored in a thick band of muscle
Muscle
Muscle is a contractile tissue of animals and is derived from the mesodermal layer of embryonic germ cells. Muscle cells contain contractile filaments that move past each other and change the size of the cell. They are classified as skeletal, cardiac, or smooth muscles. Their function is to...

 and explosively released when triggered by the stimulation of sensory
Sensory receptor
In a sensory system, a sensory receptor is a sensory nerve ending that responds to a stimulus in the internal or external environment of an organism...

 hairs on the inside of the mandibles. The mandibles also permit slow and fine movements for other tasks. Trap-jaws are also seen in the following genera: Anochetus
Anochetus
Anochetus is a genus of carnivorous ants found in the tropics and subtropics throughout the world.- Species :This is an incomplete list of species in this genus....

, Orectognathus, and Strumigenys
Strumigenys
Strumigenys is a genus of myrmicine ants in the tribe Dacetini.-Biology:Strumigenys form small nests in soil, under or between rocks, or in and under logs or under cattle dung. Some species nest in association with other ants such as Bothriomyrmex mayri or Rhytidoponera metallica. Although they are...

, plus some members of the Dacetini tribe, which are viewed as examples of convergent evolution
Convergent evolution
Convergent evolution describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.The wing is a classic example of convergent evolution in action. Although their last common ancestor did not have wings, both birds and bats do, and are capable of powered flight. The wings are...

. A Malaysian species of ant in the Camponotus cylindricus group
Superspecies
A superspecies is a group of at least two more or less distinctive species with approximately parapatric distributions. Not all species complexes, whether cryptices or ring species are superspecies, and vice versa, but many are...

 has enlarged mandibular glands that extend into their gaster. When disturbed, workers rupture the membrane of the gaster, causing a burst of secretions containing acetophenone
Acetophenone
Acetophenone is the organic compound with the formula C6H5CCH3. It is the simplest aromatic ketone. This colourless, viscous liquid is a precursor to useful resins and fragrances.-Production:Acetophenone can be obtained by a variety of methods...

s and other chemicals that immobilise small insect attackers. The worker subsequently dies. Suicidal defences by workers are also noted in a Brazilian ant Forelius pusillus where a small group of ants leaves the security of the nest after sealing the entrance from the outside each evening.


In addition to defence against predators, ants need to protect their colonies from pathogen
Pathogen
A pathogen gignomai "I give birth to") or infectious agent — colloquially, a germ — is a microbe or microorganism such as a virus, bacterium, prion, or fungus that causes disease in its animal or plant host...

s. Some worker ants maintain the hygiene of the colony and their activities include undertaking or necrophory
Necrophoresis
Necrophoresis or corpse-ridding or "undertaking" behavior, is a behaviour seen in ants and other social insects. The behavior helps maintain good sanitation in the insect colony...

, the disposal of dead nest-mates. Oleic acid
Oleic acid
Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in various animal and vegetable fats. It has the formula CH37CH=CH7COOH. It is an odorless, colourless oil, although commercial samples may be yellowish. The trans isomer of oleic acid is called elaidic acid...

 has been identified as the compound released from dead ants that triggers necrophoric behaviour in Atta mexicana while workers of Linepithema humile react to the absence of characteristic chemicals (dolichodial and iridomyrmecin
Iridomyrmecin
Iridomyrmecin is a defensive chemical, classified as an iridoid, isolated from ants of the genus Iridomyrmex. Iridomyrmecin is also found in a variety of plants including Actinidia polygama....

) present on the cuticle of their living nestmates.

Nests may be protected from physical threats such as flooding and overheating by elaborate nest architecture. Workers of Cataulacus muticus, an arboreal species that lives in plant hollows, respond to flooding by drinking water inside the nest, and excreting it outside. Camponotus anderseni
Camponotus anderseni
Camponotus anderseni is a species of mangrove ant found in northern Australia. There is little known about the ant species, Camponotus anderseni, because it is a relatively new discovery.-Description:...

which nests in the cavities of wood in mangrove habitats deals with submergence under water by switching to anaerobic respiration
Anaerobic respiration
Anaerobic respiration is a form of respiration using electron acceptors other than oxygen. Although oxygen is not used as the final electron acceptor, the process still uses a respiratory electron transport chain; it is respiration without oxygen...

.

Learning


Many animals can learn behaviours by imitation but ants may be the only group apart from mammal
Mammal
Mammals are members of a class of air-breathing vertebrate animals characterised by the possession of endothermy, hair, three middle ear bones, and mammary glands functional in mothers with young...

s where interactive teaching has been observed. A knowledgeable forager of Temnothorax albipennis
Temnothorax albipennis
Temnothorax albipennis is a species of small ant in the subfamily Myrmicinae. It occurs in Europe and builds simple nests in rock crevices.-Description:...

leads a naive nest-mate to newly discovered food by the process of tandem running
Tandem running
Tandem running is a method of recruitment used by some species of ants, such as Temnothorax albipennis, to lead nestmates to food. It is dissimilar to other recruitment strategies used by social insects such as pheromone trails, in that ants using tandem running can recruit only one worker at a time...

. The follower obtains knowledge through its leading tutor. Both leader and follower are acutely sensitive to the progress of their partner with the leader slowing down when the follower lags, and speeding up when the follower gets too close.

Controlled experiments with colonies of Cerapachys biroi suggest that individuals may choose nest roles based on their previous experience. An entire generation of identical workers was divided into two groups whose outcome in food foraging was controlled. One group was continually rewarded with prey, while it was made certain that the other failed. As a result, members of the successful group intensified their foraging attempts while the unsuccessful group ventured out less and less. A month later, the successful foragers continued in their role while the others moved to specialise in brood care.

Nest construction




Complex nests are built by many ants, but other species are nomadic and do not build permanent structures. Ants may form subterranean nests or build them on trees. These nests can be found in the ground, under stones or logs, inside logs, hollow stems or even acorns. The materials used for construction include soil and plant matter, and ants carefully select their nest sites; Temnothorax albipennis
Temnothorax albipennis
Temnothorax albipennis is a species of small ant in the subfamily Myrmicinae. It occurs in Europe and builds simple nests in rock crevices.-Description:...

will avoid sites with dead ants, as these may indicate the presence of pests or disease. They are quick to abandon established nests at the first sign of threats.

The army ant
Army ant
The name army ant is applied to over 200 ant species, in different lineages, due to their aggressive predatory foraging groups, known as "raids", in which huge numbers of ants forage simultaneously over a certain area, attacking prey en masse.Another shared feature is that, unlike most ant...

s of South America and the driver ants of Africa do not build permanent nests, but instead alternate between nomadism and stages where the workers form a temporary nest (bivouac
Bivouac (ants)
A bivouac is a structure formed by migratory army ant and driver ant colonies, where a nest is constructed out of the living ant worker's own bodies to protect the queen and larvae, and is later deconstructed as the ants move on....

) from their own bodies, by holding each other together.

Weaver ant
Weaver ant
Weaver ants or Green ants are eusocial insects of the family Formicidae . Weaver ants are obligately arboreal and are known for their unique nest building behaviour where workers construct nests by weaving together leaves using larval silk...

 (Oecophylla spp.) workers build nests in trees by attaching leaves together, first pulling them together with bridges of workers and then inducing their larvae to produce silk as they are moved along the leaf edges. Similar forms of nest construction are seen in some species of Polyrhachis.

Food cultivation




Most ants are generalist predators, scavengers and indirect herbivores, but a few have evolved specialised ways of obtaining nutrition. Leafcutter ant
Leafcutter ant
Leafcutter ants, a non-generic name, are any of 47 species of leaf-chewing ants belonging to the two genera Atta and Acromyrmex.These species of tropical, fungus-growing ants are all endemic to South, Central America, Mexico and parts of the southern United States.The Acromyrmex and Atta ants have...

s (Atta and Acromyrmex
Acromyrmex
Acromyrmex is a genus of New World ants of the subfamily Myrmicinae. It contains 31 known species.-Distribution:This genera is found in South America and parts of Central America and the Caribbean islands.-Overview:...

) feed exclusively on a fungus
Fungus
A fungus is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds , as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from plants, animals, and bacteria...

 that grows only within their colonies. They continually collect leaves which are taken to the colony, cut into tiny pieces and placed in fungal gardens. Workers specialise in tasks according to their sizes. The largest ants cut stalks, smaller workers chew the leaves and the smallest tend the fungus. Leafcutter ants are sensitive enough to recognise the reaction of the fungus to different plant material, apparently detecting chemical signals from the fungus. If a particular type of leaf is toxic to the fungus the colony will no longer collect it. The ants feed on structures produced by the fungi called gongylidia
Gongylidia
Gongylidia are hyphal swellings cultivated by fungus-growing ants. This fungus no longer exists naturally outside the ant colonies.Gongylidia are fed to the developing larvae and distributed throughout the colony to feed workers, soldiers, and the queen...

. Symbiotic
Symbiosis
Symbiosis is close and often long-term interaction between different biological species. In 1877 Bennett used the word symbiosis to describe the mutualistic relationship in lichens...

 bacteria on the exterior surface of the ants produce antibiotics that kill bacteria that may harm the fungi.

Navigation


Foraging
Forage
Forage is plant material eaten by grazing livestock.Historically the term forage has meant only plants eaten by the animals directly as pasture, crop residue, or immature cereal crops, but it is also used more loosely to include similar plants cut for fodder and carried to the animals, especially...

 ants travel distances of up to 200 metres (656.2 ft) from their nest and scent trails allow them to find their way back even in the dark. In hot and arid regions, day-foraging ants face death by desiccation, so the ability to find the shortest route back to the nest reduces that risk. Diurnal desert ants of the genus Cataglyphis such as the Sahara desert ant
Sahara desert ant
The Sahara Desert ant is a desert-dwelling ant of the genus Cataglyphis. It inhabits the Sahara Desert and is one of the most heat tolerant animals known to date. However, there are at least four other species of Cataglyphis living in the Sahara desert, for example C. bombycina, C. savigny, C....

 navigate by keeping track of direction as well as distance travelled. Distances travelled are measured using an internal pedometer
Pedometer
A pedometer is a device, usually portable and electronic or electromechanical, that counts each step a person takes by detecting the motion of the person's hips...

 that keeps count of the steps taken and also by evaluating the movement of objects in their visual field (optical flow
Optical flow
Optical flow or optic flow is the pattern of apparent motion of objects, surfaces, and edges in a visual scene caused by the relative motion between an observer and the scene. The concept of optical flow was first studied in the 1940s and ultimately published by American psychologist James J....

). Directions are measured using the position of the sun.
They integrate
Path integration
Path integration is the name given to the method thought to be used by animals for dead reckoning.Charles Darwin and J.J. Murphy first postulated an inertially-based navigation system in animals in 1873...

 this information to find the shortest route back to their nest.
Like all ants they can also make use of visual landmarks when available as well as olfactory and tactile cues to navigate. Some species of ant are able to use the Earth's magnetic field
Earth's magnetic field
Earth's magnetic field is the magnetic field that extends from the Earth's inner core to where it meets the solar wind, a stream of energetic particles emanating from the Sun...

 for navigation. Ants' compound eyes have specialised cells that detect polarised light from the Sun, which is used to determine direction.
These polarization detectors are sensitive in the ultraviolet
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

 region of the light spectrum. In some army ant species, a group of foragers that get separated from the main column can sometimes turn back on themselves and form a circular ant mill
Ant mill
An ant mill is an observed phenomenon in which a group of army ants separated from the main foraging party lose the pheromone track and begin to follow one another, forming a continuously rotating circle. The ants will eventually die of exhaustion. This has been reproduced in laboratories and the...

. The workers may then run around continuously until they die of exhaustion.

Locomotion


Worker ants do not have wings and reproductive females lose their wings after their mating flights in order to begin their colonies. Therefore, unlike their wasp ancestors, most ants travel by walking. Some species are capable of leaping. For example, Jerdon's jumping ant (Harpegnathos saltator
Harpegnathos saltator
Harpegnathos saltator, sometimes called Jerdon's jumping ant, is a species of ant found in India. They have long mandibles and have the ability to leap a few inches. They are large eyed and are active predators that hunt mainly in the early morning hours...

) is able to jump by synchronising the action of its mid and hind pairs of legs. There are several species of gliding ant
Gliding ant
Gliding ants are arboreal ants of several different genera that are able to control the direction of their descent when falling from a tree. Living in the rainforest canopy like many other gliders, gliding ants use their gliding to return to the trunk of the tree they live on should they fall or be...

 including Cephalotes atratus; this may be a common trait among most arboreal ants. Ants with this ability are able to control the direction of their descent while falling.

Other species of ants can form chains to bridge gaps over water, underground, or through spaces in vegetation. Some species also form floating rafts that help them survive floods. These rafts may also have a role in allowing ants to colonise islands. Polyrhachis sokolova
Polyrhachis sokolova
Polyrhachis sokolova is a species of ant recently discovered to be capable of surviving tidal inundations.Researchers at the James Cook University gained attention in 2006 after finding and reporting this behavior. Polyrhachis sokolova nests in mud in mangrove swamps, regularly inundated by rising...

, a species of ant found in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n mangrove
Mangrove
Mangroves are various kinds of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics – mainly between latitudes N and S...

 swamps, can swim and live in underwater nests. Since they lack gill
Gill
A gill is a respiratory organ found in many aquatic organisms that extracts dissolved oxygen from water, afterward excreting carbon dioxide. The gills of some species such as hermit crabs have adapted to allow respiration on land provided they are kept moist...

s, they breathe in trapped pockets of air in the submerged nests.

Cooperation and competition



Not all ants have the same kind of societies. The Australian bulldog ants are among the biggest and most basal
Basal (phylogenetics)
In phylogenetics, a basal clade is the earliest clade to branch in a larger clade; it appears at the base of a cladogram.A basal group forms an outgroup to the rest of the clade, such as in the following example:...

 of ants. Like virtually all ants they are eusocial
Eusociality
Eusociality is a term used for the highest level of social organization in a hierarchical classification....

, but their social behaviour is poorly developed compared to other species. Each individual hunts alone, using its large eyes instead of its chemical senses to find prey.

Some species (such as Tetramorium caespitum) attack and take over neighbouring ant colonies. Others are less expansionist but just as aggressive; they invade colonies to steal eggs or larvae, which they either eat or raise as workers/slaves. Extreme specialists among these slave-raiding ants, such as the Amazon ants, are incapable of feeding themselves and need captured workers to survive. Captured workers of the enslaved species Temnothorax have evolved a counter strategy, destroying just the female pupae of the slave-making Protomognathus americanus
Protomognathus americanus
Protomognathus americanus is a species of ant that is 2-3 mm in size. It is endemic to the northeastern United States and adjacent Canadian regions. P. americanus is a species of slave maker ant. They do not forage for food, but instead 'scout workers' from the colony seek out nearby host colonies...

, but sparing the males (who don't take part in slave-raiding as adults).


Ants identify kin and nestmates through their scent, which comes from hydrocarbon
Hydrocarbon
In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon. Hydrocarbons from which one hydrogen atom has been removed are functional groups, called hydrocarbyls....

-laced secretions that coat their exoskeletons. If an ant is separated from its original colony, it will eventually lose the colony scent. Any ant that enters a colony without a matching scent will be attacked.

Parasitic ant species enter the colonies of host ants and establish themselves as social parasites; species like Strumigenys xenos are entirely parasitic and do not have workers, but instead rely on the food gathered by their Strumigenys perplexa hosts. This form of parasitism is seen across many ant genera, but the parasitic ant is usually a species that is closely related to its host. A variety of methods are employed to enter the nest of the host ant. A parasitic queen can enter the host nest before the first brood has hatched, establishing herself prior to development of a colony scent. Other species use pheromones to confuse the host ants or to trick them into carrying the parasitic queen into the nest. Some simply fight their way into the nest.

A conflict between the sexes
Sexual conflict
Sexual conflict occurs when the two sexes have conflicting optimal fitness strategies concerning reproduction, particularly the mode and frequency of mating, leading to an evolutionary arms race between males and females. The conflict encompasses the actions and behaviors of both sexes to influence...

 of a species is seen in some species of ants with the reproductives apparently competing to produce offspring that are as closely related to them as possible. The most extreme form involves the production of clonal offspring. An extreme of sexual conflict is seen in Wasmannia auropunctata, where the queens produce diploid daughters by thelytokous parthenogenesis and males produce clones by a process where a diploid egg loses its maternal contribution to produce haploid males that are clones of the father.

Relationships with other organisms



Ants form symbiotic associations with a range of species, including other ant species, other insects, plants, and fungi. They are preyed on by many animals and even certain fungi. Some arthropod species spend part of their lives within ant nests, either preying on ants, their larvae and eggs, consuming the ants' food stores, or avoiding predators. These inquiline
Inquiline
In zoology, an inquiline is an animal that lives commensally in the nest, burrow, or dwelling place of an animal of another species. For example, some organisms such as insects may live in the homes of gophers and feed on debris, fungi, roots, etc...

s can bear a close resemblance to ants. The nature of this ant mimicry
Ant mimicry
Ant mimicry is mimicry of ants by other organisms. Ants are abundant all over the world, and insect predators that rely on vision to identify their prey such as birds and wasps normally avoid them, either because they are unpalatable, or aggressive. Thus some other arthropods mimic ants to escape...

 (myrmecomorphy) varies, with some cases involving Batesian mimicry
Batesian mimicry
Batesian mimicry is a form of mimicry typified by a situation where a harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signals of a harmful species directed at a common predator...

, where the mimic reduces the risk of predation. Others show Wasmannian mimicry, a form of mimicry seen only in inquilines.


Aphid
Aphid
Aphids, also known as plant lice and in Britain and the Commonwealth as greenflies, blackflies or whiteflies, are small sap sucking insects, and members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. Aphids are among the most destructive insect pests on cultivated plants in temperate regions...

s and other hemiptera
Hemiptera
Hemiptera is an order of insects most often known as the true bugs , comprising around 50,000–80,000 species of cicadas, aphids, planthoppers, leafhoppers, shield bugs, and others...

n insects secrete a sweet liquid called honeydew
Honeydew (secretion)
Honeydew is a sugar-rich sticky liquid, secreted by aphids and some scale insects as they feed on plant sap. When their mouthpart penetrates the phloem, the sugary, high-pressure liquid is forced out of the gut's terminal opening. Honeydew is particularly common as a secretion in the Hemipteran...

 when they feed on plant sap
Plant sap
Sap is a fluid transported in xylem cells or phloem sieve tube elements of a plant. It transports water and nutrients throughout the plant....

. The sugars in honeydew are a high-energy food source, which many ant species collect. In some cases the aphids secrete the honeydew in response to the ants' tapping them with their antennae. The ants in turn keep predators away and will move the aphids between feeding locations. On migrating to a new area, many colonies will take the aphids with them, to ensure a continued supply of honeydew. Ants also tend mealybug
Mealybug
Mealybugs are insects in the family Pseudococcidae, unarmored scale insects found in moist, warm climates. They are considered pests as they feed on plant juices of greenhouse plants, house plants and subtropical trees and also acts as a vector for several plant diseases.-Distribution:Mealybugs...

s to harvest their honeydew. Mealybugs can become a serious pest of pineapples if ants are present to protect mealybugs from their natural enemies.

Myrmecophilous (ant-loving) caterpillar
Caterpillar
Caterpillars are the larval form of members of the order Lepidoptera . They are mostly herbivorous in food habit, although some species are insectivorous. Caterpillars are voracious feeders and many of them are considered to be pests in agriculture...

s of the family Lycaenidae
Lycaenidae
The Lycaenidae are the second-largest family of butterflies, with about 6000 species worldwide, whose members are also called gossamer-winged butterflies...

 (e.g., blues, coppers, or hairstreaks) are herded by the ants, led to feeding areas in the daytime, and brought inside the ants' nest at night. The caterpillars have a gland which secretes honeydew when the ants massage them. Some caterpillars produce vibrations and sounds that are perceived by the ants. Other caterpillars have evolved from ant-loving to ant-eating: these myrmecophagous caterpillars secrete a pheromone that makes the ants act as if the caterpillar is one of their own larvae. The caterpillar is then taken into the ants' nest where it feeds on the ant larvae.

Fungus-growing ants
Fungus-growing ants
The fungus-growing ants comprises all the known fungus-growing ant species in the world participating in ant-fungus mutualism. Leafcutter ants, including Atta and Acromyrmex, make up 2 of the genera.-See also:...

 that make up the tribe Attini, including leafcutter ant
Leafcutter ant
Leafcutter ants, a non-generic name, are any of 47 species of leaf-chewing ants belonging to the two genera Atta and Acromyrmex.These species of tropical, fungus-growing ants are all endemic to South, Central America, Mexico and parts of the southern United States.The Acromyrmex and Atta ants have...

s, cultivate certain species of fungus in the Leucoagaricus
Leucoagaricus
Leucoagaricus is a genus of fungi in the family Agaricaceae. The genus contains approximately 90 species.-External links:* at Index Fungorum...

or Leucocoprinus
Leucocoprinus
Leucocoprinus is a genus of fungi in the family Agaricaceae. Its best known member is the yellow pot-plant mushroom , found worldwide. The type species is Leucocoprinus cepistipes...

genera of the Agaricaceae
Agaricaceae
The Agaricaceae are a family of basidiomycete fungi and includes the genus Agaricus, as well as basidiomycetes previously classified in the families Tulostomataceae, Lepiotaceae, and Lycoperdaceae. The genus contains 85 genera and 1340 species.-Genera:...

 family. In this ant-fungus mutualism
Ant-fungus mutualism
Ant-fungus mutualism is a symbiosis seen in certain ant and fungal species, where ants actively cultivate fungus much like humans farm crops as a food source. In some species, the ants and fungi are dependent on each other for survival. The leafcutter ant is a well known example of this symbiosis...

, both species depend on each other for survival. The ant Allomerus decemarticulatus
Allomerus decemarticulatus
The Amazonian ant species Allomerus decemarticulatus is a social insect found in the tropics of South America. They were documented by Alain Dejean et al. in French Guiana, a small French territory on the coast of northeast South America just north of Brazil...

has evolved a three-way association with the host plant Hirtella physophora
Hirtella physophora
Hirtella physophora is a species of plant in the Chrysobalanaceae family. It forms an association with the ant species, Allomerus decemarticulatus. The ants live in honeycombed cylinders they attach to the plant's stems. The plant nearly always has these ants associated with it....

(Chrysobalanaceae), and a sticky fungus which is used to trap their insect prey.

Lemon ants
Myrmelachista schumanni
Myrmelachista schumanni, also known as the lemon ant, is a species of ant that is notable for the creation of Devil's garden. Using its own herbicide, it is able to shape its surroundings....

 make devil's garden
Devil's garden
This should not be confused with the Devil's gardensIn myrmecology and forest ecology, a devil's garden is a large stand of trees in the Amazon Rainforest consisting almost exclusively of a single species, Duroia hirsuta...

s by killing surrounding plants with their stings and leaving a pure patch of lemon ant trees (Duroia hirsuta). This modification of the forest provides the ants with more nesting sites inside the stems of the Duroia trees. Although some ants obtain nectar from flowers, pollination by ants is somewhat rare. Some plants have special nectar exuding structures, extrafloral nectaries that provide food for ants, which in turn protect
Plant defense against herbivory
Plant defense against herbivory or host-plant resistance describes a range of adaptations evolved by plants which improve their survival and reproduction by reducing the impact of herbivores. Plants use several strategies to defend against damage caused by herbivores...

 the plant from more damaging herbivorous insects. Species like the bullhorn acacia (Acacia cornigera
Acacia cornigera
Acacia cornigera, commonly known as Bullhorn Acacia , is a swollen-thorn acacia native to Mexico and Central America. The common name of "bullhorn" refers to the enlarged, hollowed-out, swollen thorns that occur in pairs at the base of leaves, and resemble the horns of a steer...

) in Central America have hollow thorns that house colonies of stinging ants (Pseudomyrmex ferruginea
Pseudomyrmex ferruginea
The acacia ant is a species of ant of the genus Pseudomyrmex. These arboreal, wasp-like ants have a orange-brown body around 3 cm in length and very large eyes...

) that defend the tree against insects, browsing mammals, and epiphytic
Epiphyte
An epiphyte is a plant that grows upon another plant non-parasitically or sometimes upon some other object , derives its moisture and nutrients from the air and rain and sometimes from debris accumulating around it, and is found in the temperate zone and in the...

 vines. Isotopic labelling studies suggest that plants also obtain nitrogen from the ants. In return, the ants obtain food from protein and lipid rich Beltian bodies. Another example of this type of ectosymbiosis
Ectosymbiosis
Ectosymbiosis is symbiosis in which the symbiont lives on the body surface of the host, including internal surfaces such as the lining of the digestive tube and the ducts of glands....

 comes from the Macaranga
Macaranga
Macaranga is a large genus of Old World tropical trees of the family Euphorbiaceae and the only genus in the subtribe Macaranginae. Native to Africa, Australasia, Asia and the South Pacific, the genus comprises over 300 different species. These plants are noted for being recolonizers...

tree, which has stems adapted to house colonies of Crematogaster
Crematogaster
Crematogaster is an ecologically diverse genus of ants found worldwide, which are characterised by a distinctive heart-shaped gaster , which gives one of their common names, Valentine Ant. It is the only genus of the tribus Crematogastrini. Most of species are arboreal...

ants.

Many tropical tree species have seeds that are dispersed by ants. Seed dispersal by ants or myrmecochory
Myrmecochory
Myrmecochory is seed dispersal by ants, an ecologically significant ant-plant interaction with worldwide distribution. Myrmecochorous plants produce seeds with elaiosomes, a term encompassing various external appendages or "food bodies" rich in lipids, amino acid, or other nutrients that are...

 is widespread and new estimates suggest that nearly 9% of all plant species may have such ant associations. Some plants in fire-prone grassland systems are particularly dependent on ants for their survival and dispersal as the seeds are transported to safety below the ground. Many ant-dispersed seeds have special external structures, elaiosome
Elaiosome
Elaiosomes are fleshy structures that are attached to the seeds of many plant species. The elaiosome is rich in lipids and proteins, and may be variously shaped. Many plants have elaiosomes to attract ants, which take the seed to their nest and feed the elaiosome to their larvae...

s, that are sought after by ants as food. A convergence
Convergent evolution
Convergent evolution describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.The wing is a classic example of convergent evolution in action. Although their last common ancestor did not have wings, both birds and bats do, and are capable of powered flight. The wings are...

, possibly a form of mimicry, is seen in the eggs of stick insects. They have an edible elaiosome-like structure and are taken into the ant nest where the young hatch.
Most ants are predatory and some prey on and obtain food from other social insects including other ants. Some species specialise in preying on termites (Megaponera and Termitopone) while a few Cerapachyinae prey on other ants. Some termites, including Nasutitermes corniger
Nasutitermes corniger
Nasutitermes corniger is a species of arboreal termite that is endemic to the neotropics. It is very closely related to Nasutitermes ephratae.The species has been studied relatively intensively, particularly on Barro Colorado Island, Panama...

, form associations with certain ant species to keep away other predatory ant species. The tropical wasp Mischocyttarus drewseni coats the pedicel of its nest with an ant-repellant chemical. It is suggested that many tropical wasps may build their nests in trees and cover them to protect themselves from ants. Stingless bees (Trigona and Melipona
Melipona
Melipona is a genus of stingless bees. These are widespread in warm areas of the Neotropics, from Sinaloa and Tamaulipas to Tucumán and Misiones . At least 40 species are known....

) use chemical defences against ants. Army ant
Army ant
The name army ant is applied to over 200 ant species, in different lineages, due to their aggressive predatory foraging groups, known as "raids", in which huge numbers of ants forage simultaneously over a certain area, attacking prey en masse.Another shared feature is that, unlike most ant...

s forage in a wide roving column attacking any animals in that path that are unable to escape. Eciton burchellii
Eciton burchellii
Eciton burchellii is the predominant species of the genus Eciton and a type of New World army ant. Distinct in its expansive, highly organized swarm raids, it is often considered the archetypal species of "army ant" — so much that the term has become its common name — and remains one of...

is the swarming ant most commonly attended by "ant-following
Ant-follower
Ant-followers are birds that feed by following swarms of army ants and take prey flushed by those ants. The best known ant-followers are 18 species of antbird in the family Thamnophilidae, but other families of birds may follow ants including thrushes, chats, ant-tanagers, cuckoos, and...

" birds such as antbird
Antbird
The antbirds are a large family, Thamnophilidae, of passerine birds found across subtropical and tropical Central and South America, from Mexico to Argentina. There are more than 200 species, known variously as antshrikes, antwrens, antvireos, fire-eyes, bare-eyes and bushbirds...

s and woodcreeper
Woodcreeper
The woodcreepers comprise a subfamily of sub-oscine passerine birds endemic to the Neotropics. They have traditionally been considered a distinct family Dendrocolaptidae, but most authorities now place them as a subfamily of the ovenbirds...

s.

Flies in the Old World genus Bengalia
Bengalia
Bengalia is a genus of blow flies in the family Calliphoridae with one authority considering the genus to belong to a separate family Bengaliidae. These bristly and, unlike the greens and blues of most calliphorids, dull coloured flies, are especially noted for their relationship to ants...

(Calliphoridae) prey on ants and are kleptoparasites, snatching prey or brood from the mandibles of adult ants. Wingless and legless females of the Malaysian phorid fly (Vestigipoda myrmolarvoidea) live in the nests of ants of the genus Aenictus
Aenictus
The army ant genus Aenictus is an enigmatic group known from Africa, tropical Asia, and Queensland. There are some 100 species presently recognized, though many other names are applied at the rank of subspecies...

and are cared for by the ants.

Fungi in the genera Cordyceps
Cordyceps
Cordyceps is a genus of ascomycete fungi that includes about 400 described species. All Cordyceps species are endoparasitoids, mainly on insects and other arthropods ; a few are parasitic on other fungi. The best known species of the genus is Cordyceps sinensis, first recorded as yartsa gunbu in...

and Ophiocordyceps infect ants, causing them to climb up plants and sink their mandibles into plant tissue. The fungus kills the ant, grows on its remains, and produces a fruiting body. It appears that the fungus alters the behaviour of the ant to help disperse its spores in a microhabitat that best suits the fungus. Strepsiptera
Strepsiptera
The Strepsiptera are an order of insects with ten families making up about 600 species...

n parasites also manipulate their ant host to climb grass stems, to help the parasite find mates. A nematode (Myrmeconema neotropicum) that infects canopy ants (Cephalotes atratus) causes the black coloured gasters of workers to turn red. The parasite also alters the behaviour of the ant, and makes them carry their gasters high. The conspicuous red gasters are mistaken by birds for ripe fruits such as Hyeronima alchorneoides and eaten. The droppings of the bird are collected by other ants and fed to their young leading to the further spread of the nematode.

South American poison dart frog
Poison dart frog
Poison dart frog is the common name of a group of frogs in the family Dendrobatidae which are native to Central and South America. These species are diurnal and often have brightly-colored bodies...

s in the genus Dendrobates
Dendrobates
Dendrobates is a genus of poison dart frogs native to South America. It once contained all poison dart frogs; until recently, frogs such as Dendrobates pumilio and Dendrobates terribilis were scientifically valid names...

feed mainly on ants, and the toxins in their skin may come from the ants. Several South American antbird
Antbird
The antbirds are a large family, Thamnophilidae, of passerine birds found across subtropical and tropical Central and South America, from Mexico to Argentina. There are more than 200 species, known variously as antshrikes, antwrens, antvireos, fire-eyes, bare-eyes and bushbirds...

s follow army ants to feed on the insects that are flushed from cover by the foraging ants. This behaviour was once considered mutualistic, but later studies show that it is instead kleptoparasitic
Kleptoparasitism
Kleptoparasitism or cleptoparasitism is a form of feeding in which one animal takes prey or other food from another that has caught, collected, or otherwise prepared the food, including stored food...

, with the birds stealing prey. Birds indulge in a peculiar behaviour called anting
Anting (bird activity)
In the behavior called anting, birds rub insects on their feathers, usually ants, which secrete liquids containing chemicals such as formic acid, that can act as an insecticide, miticide, fungicide, bactericide, or to make them edible by removing the distasteful acid. It possibly also supplements...

 that is as yet not fully understood. Here birds rest on ant nests, or pick and drop ants onto their wings and feathers; this may remove ectoparasites. Anteater
Anteater
Anteaters, also known as antbear, are the four mammal species of the suborder Vermilingua commonly known for eating ants and termites. Together with the sloths, they compose the order Pilosa...

s, pangolin
Pangolin
A pangolin , also scaly anteater or Trenggiling, is a mammal of the order Pholidota. There is only one extant family and one genus of pangolins, comprising eight species. There are also a number of extinct taxa. Pangolins have large keratin scales covering their skin and are the only mammals with...

s and several marsupial
Marsupial
Marsupials are an infraclass of mammals, characterized by giving birth to relatively undeveloped young. Close to 70% of the 334 extant species occur in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, with the remaining 100 found in the Americas, primarily in South America, but with thirteen in Central...

 species in Australia have special adaptation
Adaptation
An adaptation in biology is a trait with a current functional role in the life history of an organism that is maintained and evolved by means of natural selection. An adaptation refers to both the current state of being adapted and to the dynamic evolutionary process that leads to the adaptation....

s for living on a diet of ants. These adaptations include long, sticky tongues to capture ants and strong claws to break into ant nests. Brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

s (Ursus arctos) have been found to feed on ants, and about 12%, 16%, and 4% of their faecal volume in spring, summer, and autumn, respectively, is composed of ants.

Relationship with humans



Ants perform many ecological roles that are beneficial to humans, including the suppression of pest populations and aeration of the soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

. The use of weaver ant
Weaver ant
Weaver ants or Green ants are eusocial insects of the family Formicidae . Weaver ants are obligately arboreal and are known for their unique nest building behaviour where workers construct nests by weaving together leaves using larval silk...

s in citrus cultivation in southern China is considered one of the oldest known applications of biological control. On the other hand, ants can become nuisances when they invade buildings, or cause economic losses.

In some parts of the world (mainly Africa and South America), large ants, especially army ant
Army ant
The name army ant is applied to over 200 ant species, in different lineages, due to their aggressive predatory foraging groups, known as "raids", in which huge numbers of ants forage simultaneously over a certain area, attacking prey en masse.Another shared feature is that, unlike most ant...

s, are used as surgical sutures. The wound is pressed together and ants are applied along it. The ant seizes the edges of the wound in its mandibles and locks in place. The body is then cut off and the head and mandibles remain in place to close the wound.

Some ants of the family Ponerinae have toxic venom and are of medical importance. The species include Paraponera clavata (Tocandira) and Dinoponera spp. (false Tocandiras) of South America and the Myrmecia ants of Australia.

In South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, ants are used to help harvest rooibos
Rooibos
Rooibos is a broom-like member of the legume family of plants growing in South Africa's fynbos.The generic name comes from the plant Calicotome villosa, aspalathos in Greek. This plant has very similar growth and flowers to the redbush...

 (Aspalathus linearis), which are small seeds used to make a herbal tea. The plant disperses its seeds widely, making manual collection difficult. Black ants collect and store these and other seeds in their nest, where humans can gather them en masse. Up to half a pound (200 g) of seeds can be collected from one ant-heap.

Although most ants survive attempts by humans to eradicate them, a few are highly endangered. These are mainly island species that have evolved specialized traits and include the critically endangered Sri Lankan relict ant
Sri Lankan relict ant
The Sri Lankan relict ant is a species of evolutionarily ancient ant that is placed in a separate tribe of its own within the Formicidae family. The genus is monotypic, with the only species endemic to Sri Lanka where it is known from just a few locations...

 (Aneuretus simoni) and Adetomyrma venatrix of Madagascar.

It has been estimated by E.O. Wilson that the total number of individual ants alive in the world at any one time is between one and ten quadrillion (short scale). According to this estimate, the total biomass
Biomass (ecology)
Biomass, in ecology, is the mass of living biological organisms in a given area or ecosystem at a given time. Biomass can refer to species biomass, which is the mass of one or more species, or to community biomass, which is the mass of all species in the community. It can include microorganisms,...

 of all the ants in the world is approximately equal to the total biomass of the entire human race
Human Race
Human Race refers to the Human species.Human race may also refer to:*The Human Race, 79th episode of YuYu Hakusho* Human Race Theatre Company of Dayton Ohio* Human Race Machine, a computer graphics device...

.

As food



Ants and their larvae are eaten in different parts of the world. The eggs of two species of ants are the basis for the dish in Mexico known as escamoles
Escamoles
Escamoles are the larvae of ants of the genus Liometopum, harvested from the roots of the agave or maguey plant in Mexico. In some forms of Mexican cuisine, escamoles are considered a delicacy and are sometimes referred to as "insect caviar"...

. They are considered a form of insect caviar
Caviar
Caviar, sometimes called black caviar, is a luxury delicacy, consisting of processed, salted, non-fertilized sturgeon roe. The roe can be "fresh" or pasteurized, the latter having much less culinary and economic value....

 and can sell for as much as USD 40 per pound (USD 90/kg) because they are seasonal and hard to find. In the Colombia
Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

n department of Santander
Santander Department
Santander is a department of Colombia. Santander inherited the name of one of the nine original states of the United States of Colombia. It is located in the central northern part of the country, east of the Magdalena River, bordered to the south and southeast by Boyacá, to the northeast by Norte...

, hormigas culonas (roughly interpreted as "large-bottomed ants") Atta laevigata
Atta laevigata
Atta laevigata is one of about a dozen species of leafcutter ants in the genus Atta, found from Colombia south to Paraguay. This species is one of the largest leafcutter species, and can be recognized by the smooth and shining head of the largest workers in a colony...

are toasted alive and eaten.
In areas of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, and throughout Burma and Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, a paste of the green weaver ant (Oecophylla smaragdina
Oecophylla smaragdina
Oecophylla smaragdina is a species of arboreal ant found in Asia and Australia. They make nests in trees made of leaves stitched together using the silk produced by their larvae.Weaver ants may be red or green...

) is served as a condiment with curry. Weaver ant eggs and larvae as well as the ants themselves may be used in a Thai salad, yum (ยำ), in a dish called yum khai mod daeng (ยำไข่มดแดง) or red ant egg salad, a dish that comes from the Issan or north-eastern region of Thailand. Saville-Kent
William Saville-Kent
William Saville-Kent was an English marine biologist.Born in Sidmouth, Devon, his childhood was marred by the death of his mother, the murder of his half-brother and conviction of his sister Constance to twenty years in prison...

, in the Naturalist in Australia wrote "Beauty, in the case of the green ant, is more than skin-deep. Their attractive, almost sweetmeat-like translucency possibly invited the first essays at their consumption by the human species". Mashed up in water, after the manner of lemon squash, "these ants form a pleasant acid drink which is held in high favor by the natives of North Queensland, and is even appreciated by many European palates".

In his First Summer in the Sierra, John Muir
John Muir
John Muir was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions...

 notes that the Digger Indians
Paiute
Paiute refers to three closely related groups of Native Americans — the Northern Paiute of California, Idaho, Nevada and Oregon; the Owens Valley Paiute of California and Nevada; and the Southern Paiute of Arizona, southeastern California and Nevada, and Utah.-Origin of name:The origin of...

 of California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 ate the tickly acid gasters of the large jet-black carpenter ant
Carpenter ant
Carpenter ants are large ants indigenous to many parts of the world. They prefer dead, damp wood in which to build nests. They do not eat it, however, unlike termites. Sometimes carpenter ants will hollow out sections of trees. The most likely species to be infesting a house in the United States...

s. The Mexican Indians eat the replete workers, or living honey-pots, of the honey ant (Myrmecocystus
Myrmecocystus
Myrmecocystus is a North American genus of ants. It is one of five genera that includes honeypot ants. Worker ants keep and tend plerergates, which are other ants that store large quantities of nutritious fluid in their abdomens to feed the colony during famine times...

).

As pests


Some ant species are considered pests, and because of the adaptive nature of ant colonies, eliminating the entire colony is nearly impossible. Pest management is therefore a matter of controlling local populations, instead of eliminating an entire colony, and most attempts at control are temporary solutions.

Ants classified as pests include the pavement ant
Pavement ant
The pavement ant, Tetramorium caespitum, is a common household pest. Its name comes from the fact that colonies usually make their homes in pavement. It is distinguished by one spine on the back, two nodes on the petiole, and grooves on the head and thorax ...

, yellow crazy ant
Yellow crazy ant
The yellow crazy ant is a species of ant, introduced accidentally to northern Australia and Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, that has wreaked ecological damage in both locations....

, sugar ant
Sugar Ant
thumb|C. consobrinus worker antThe sugar ant —also known as the banded sugar ant—is a relatively large ant, identifiable by their orange-brown bodies, black head and mandibles. The sugar ants' name comes from their liking for sugar, but they are attracted to other savory food. They are commonly...

s, the Pharaoh ant
Pharaoh ant
The pharaoh ant is a small yellow or light brown, almost transparent ant notorious for being a major indoor nuisance pest, especially in hospitals. The origin of this "tramp" ant is uncertain, although favoured alternatives include West Africa and Indonesia...

, carpenter ants, Argentine ant
Argentine ant
The Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, is a dark ant native to northern Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and southern Brazil...

, odorous house ants, red imported fire ant
Red imported fire ant
See main article Fire ant.The red imported fire ant , or simply RIFA, is one of over 280 species in the widespread genus Solenopsis...

 and European fire ant
Myrmica rubra
Myrmica rubra, also known as the European fire ant or common red ant, is a species of ant of the genus Myrmica, found all over Europe and in some parts of North America and Asia. They are mainly red in colour, with slightly darker pigmentation on the head. The ants live under stones, fallen trees,...

. Populations are controlled using insecticide baits, either in granule or liquid formulations. Bait is gathered by the ants as food and brought back to the nest where the poison is inadvertently spread to other colony members through trophallaxis
Trophallaxis
Trophallaxis is the transfer of food or other fluids among members of a community through mouth-to-mouth or anus-to-mouth feeding. It is most highly developed in social insects such as ants, termites, wasps and bees. The word was introduced by the entomologist William Morton Wheeler in 1918...

. Boric acid
Boric acid
Boric acid, also called hydrogen borate or boracic acid or orthoboric acid or acidum boricum, is a weak acid of boron often used as an antiseptic, insecticide, flame retardant, as a neutron absorber, and as a precursor of other chemical compounds. It exists in the form of colorless crystals or a...

 and borax
Borax
Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. It is usually a white powder consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water.Borax has a wide variety of uses...

 are often used as insecticide
Insecticide
An insecticide is a pesticide used against insects. They include ovicides and larvicides used against the eggs and larvae of insects respectively. Insecticides are used in agriculture, medicine, industry and the household. The use of insecticides is believed to be one of the major factors behind...

s that are relatively safe for humans. Bait may be broadcast over a large area to control species like the red fire ant that occupy large areas. Nests of red fire ants may be destroyed by following the ants' trails back to the nest and then pouring boiling water into it to kill the queen. This works in about 60% of the mounds and requires about 14 l (3 imp gal; 4 US gal) per mound.

In science and technology



Myrmecologists
Myrmecology
Myrmecology is the scientific study of ants, a branch of entomology. Some early myrmecologists considered ant society as the ideal form of society and sought to find solutions to human problems by studying them. Ants continue to be a model of choice for the study of questions on the evolution of...

 study ants in the laboratory and in their natural conditions. Their complex and variable social structures have made ants ideal model organism
Model organism
A model organism is a non-human species that is extensively studied to understand particular biological phenomena, with the expectation that discoveries made in the organism model will provide insight into the workings of other organisms. Model organisms are in vivo models and are widely used to...

s. Ultraviolet vision was first discovered in ants by Sir John Lubbock
John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury
John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury PC , FRS , known as Sir John Lubbock, 4th Baronet from 1865 until 1900, was a polymath and Liberal Member of Parliament....

 in 1881. Studies on ants have tested hypotheses in ecology
Ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

, sociobiology
Sociobiology
Sociobiology is a field of scientific study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context. Often considered a branch of biology and sociology, it also draws from ethology, anthropology,...

 and have been particularly important in examining the predictions of theories of kin selection
Kin selection
Kin selection refers to apparent strategies in evolution that favor the reproductive success of an organism's relatives, even at a cost to the organism's own survival and reproduction. Charles Darwin was the first to discuss the concept of group/kin selection...

 and evolutionarily stable strategies
Evolutionarily stable strategy
In game theory and behavioural ecology, an evolutionarily stable strategy , which is sometimes also called an evolutionary stable strategy, is a strategy which, if adopted by a population of players, cannot be invaded by any alternative strategy that is initially rare. An ESS is an equilibrium...

. Ant colonies can be studied by rearing or temporarily maintaining them in formicaria
Formicarium
A formicarium or ant farm is a vivarium which is designed primarily for the study of ant colonies and how ants behave. Those who study ant behavior are known as myrmecologists.-History:...

, specially constructed glass framed enclosures. Individuals may be tracked for study by marking them with colours.

The successful techniques used by ant colonies have been studied in computer science and robotics to produce distributed and fault-tolerant systems for solving problems. This area of biomimetics
Biomimetics
Biomimetics is the study of the structure and function of biological systems as models for the design and engineering of materials and machines. It is widely regarded as being synonymous with biomimicry, biomimesis, biognosis and similar to biologically inspired design.-History:The term biomimetics...

 has led to studies of ant locomotion, search engines that make use of "foraging trails", fault-tolerant storage and networking algorithms.

In culture



Anthropomorphised
Anthropomorphism
Anthropomorphism is any attribution of human characteristics to animals, non-living things, phenomena, material states, objects or abstract concepts, such as organizations, governments, spirits or deities. The term was coined in the mid 1700s...

 ants have often been used in fables and children's stories to represent industriousness and cooperative effort. They are also mentioned in religious texts. In the Book of Proverbs
Book of Proverbs
The Book of Proverbs , commonly referred to simply as Proverbs, is a book of the Hebrew Bible.The original Hebrew title of the book of Proverbs is "Míshlê Shlomoh" . When translated into Greek and Latin, the title took on different forms. In the Greek Septuagint the title became "paroimai paroimiae"...

 in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, ants are held up as a good example for humans for their hard work and cooperation. Aesop
Aesop
Aesop was a Greek writer credited with a number of popular fables. Older spellings of his name have included Esop and Isope. Although his existence remains uncertain and no writings by him survive, numerous tales credited to him were gathered across the centuries and in many languages in a...

 did the same in his fable The Ant and the Grasshopper
The Ant and the Grasshopper
The Ant and the Grasshopper, also known as The Grasshopper and the Ant , is one of Aesop's Fables, providing an ambivalent moral lesson about hard work and foresight. In the Perry Index it is number 373...

. In the Quran, Sulayman
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

  is said to have heard and understood an ant warning other ants to return home to avoid being accidentally crushed by Sulayman and his marching army. In parts of Africa, ants are considered to be the messengers of the gods. Some Native American mythology
Native American mythology
Native American mythology is the body of traditional narratives associated with Native American religion from a mythographical perspective. Native American belief systems include many sacred narratives. Such spiritual stories are deeply based in Nature and are rich with the symbolism of seasons,...

, such as the Hopi mythology
Hopi mythology
The Hopi maintain a complex religious and mythological tradition stretching back over centuries. However, it is difficult to definitively state what all Hopis as a group believe. Like the oral traditions of many other societies, Hopi mythology is not always told consistently and each Hopi mesa, or...

, considers ants as the very first animals. Ant bites are often said to have curative properties. The sting of some species of Pseudomyrmex
Pseudomyrmex
Pseudomyrmex is a genus of stinging, wasp-like ants in the family Formicidae . They are large eyed, slender ants with an arboreal habitat. They are found exclusively in the New World in tropical and subtropical regions...

is claimed to give fever relief. Ant bites are used in the initiation
Initiation
Initiation is a rite of passage ceremony marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society. It could also be a formal admission to adulthood in a community or one of its formal components...

 ceremonies of some Amazon Indian cultures as a test of endurance.

Ant society has always fascinated humans and has been written about both humorously and seriously. Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

 wrote about ants in his A Tramp Abroad
A Tramp Abroad
A Tramp Abroad is a work of non-fiction travel literature by American author Mark Twain, published in 1880. The book details a journey by the author, with his friend Harris , through central and southern Europe...

. Some modern authors have used the example of the ants to comment on the relationship between society and the individual. Examples are Robert Frost
Robert Frost
Robert Lee Frost was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech. His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and...

 in his poem "Departmental" and T. H. White
T. H. White
Terence Hanbury White was an English author best known for his sequence of Arthurian novels, The Once and Future King, first published together in 1958.-Biography:...

 in his fantasy novel The Once and Future King
The Once and Future King
The Once and Future King is an Arthurian fantasy novel written by T. H. White. It was first published in 1958 and is mostly a composite of earlier works written in a period between 1938 and 1941....

. The plot in French entomologist and writer Bernard Werber
Bernard Werber
Bernard Werber is a French science fiction writer active since the 1990s.-Novels:His style of writing mixes different literary genres, notably the saga, the science fiction of the inter-war years, and tracts of philosophy.In most of his novels, Bernard Werber uses the same form of construction,...

's Les Fourmis
Les Fourmis
Les Fourmis is a 1991 science fiction novel by French writer Bernard Werber. It was released in English as Empire of the Ants. The book sold more than two million copies and has been translated into more than 30 languages...

science-fiction trilogy is divided between the worlds of ants and humans; ants and their behaviour is described using contemporary scientific knowledge. In more recent times, animated cartoons and 3D animated movies featuring ants have been produced including Antz
Antz
Antz is a 1998 American computer animated action adventure film produced by DreamWorks Animation. It features the voices of well-known actors such as Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Jennifer Lopez, Sylvester Stallone, Dan Aykroyd, Anne Bancroft, Gene Hackman, Christopher Walken, and Danny Glover as...

, A Bug's Life
A Bug's Life
A Bug's Life is a 1998 American computer animated adventure comedy film produced by Pixar and released by Walt Disney Pictures in the United States on November 25, 1998. A Bug's Life was the second Disney·Pixar feature film after Toy Story, and the third American computer-animated film after Toy...

, The Ant Bully
The Ant Bully (film)
The Ant Bully is a 2006 American computer-animated film written and directed by John A. Davis based on the 1999 children's book of the same name by John Nickle...

, The Ant and the Aardvark
The Ant and the Aardvark
The Ant and the Aardvark is a series of 17 theatrical short cartoons produced at DePatie-Freleng Enterprises and released by United Artists from 1969 to 1971.-Production:...

, Atom Ant
Atom Ant
Atom Ant is a cartoon ant and superhero, created by Hanna-Barbera in 1965. Atom costarred in The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show...

, and there is a comic book
Comic book
A comic book or comicbook is a magazine made up of comics, narrative artwork in the form of separate panels that represent individual scenes, often accompanied by dialog as well as including...

 superhero called Ant-Man
Ant-Man
Ant-Man is the name of several fictional characters appearing in books published by Marvel Comics. Ant-Man was originally the superhero persona of Hank Pym, a brilliant scientist who invented a substance that allowed him to change his size...

. Renowned myrmecologist
Myrmecology
Myrmecology is the scientific study of ants, a branch of entomology. Some early myrmecologists considered ant society as the ideal form of society and sought to find solutions to human problems by studying them. Ants continue to be a model of choice for the study of questions on the evolution of...

 E. O. Wilson
E. O. Wilson
Edward Osborne Wilson is an American biologist, researcher , theorist , naturalist and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, the study of ants....

 wrote a short story, "Trailhead" in 2010 for The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

 magazine, which describes the life and death of an ant-queen, and the rise and fall of her colony, from an ants' point of view.

The Chinese character
Chinese character
Chinese characters are logograms used in the writing of Chinese and Japanese , less frequently Korean , formerly Vietnamese , or other languages...

 for ant is a combination of two logogram
Logogram
A logogram, or logograph, is a grapheme which represents a word or a morpheme . This stands in contrast to phonograms, which represent phonemes or combinations of phonemes, and determinatives, which mark semantic categories.Logograms are often commonly known also as "ideograms"...

s that may be interpreted as "insect which behaves properly ". The traditional Chinese character (蟻) used in Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

 shares this etymology
Etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

. In spoken Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 the ant is usually referred to as mǎyĭ .

From the late 1950s through the late 1970s, ant farms
Formicarium
A formicarium or ant farm is a vivarium which is designed primarily for the study of ant colonies and how ants behave. Those who study ant behavior are known as myrmecologists.-History:...

 were popular educational children's toys in the United States. Later versions use transparent gel instead of soil allowing greater visibility. In the early 1990s, the video game SimAnt
SimAnt
SimAnt: The Electronic Ant Colony is a 1991 life simulation computer game by Maxis and Maxis' Third Product, focusing on ants. It was designed by Will Wright, maker of other 'Sim' games such as SimCity and The Sims...

, which simulated an ant colony, won the 1992 Codie award
Codie awards
The CODiE awards are annual awards issued by the Software and Information Industry Association for excellence in software development within the software industry....

 for "Best Simulation Program".

Ants are also quite popular inspiration for many science-fiction insectoid
Insectoid
Insectoid denotes any creature or object that shares a similar body or traits with common earth insects and arachnids. The term is a combination of "insect" and "-oid" . Compare "humanoid"....

s, such as the Formics of Ender's Game
Ender's Game
Ender's Game is a science fiction novel by American author Orson Scott Card. The book originated as the short story "Ender's Game", published in the August 1977 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Elaborating on characters and plot lines depicted in the novel, Card later wrote additional...

, the Bugs of Starship Troopers
Starship Troopers
Starship Troopers is a military science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, first published as a serial in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and published hardcover in December, 1959.The first-person narrative is about a young soldier from the Philippines named Juan "Johnnie" Rico and his...

, the giant ants in the film Them!, and ants mutated into super intelligence in Phase IV
Phase IV
Phase IV is an American science fiction film, made in 1974. It is the only feature-length film directed by the noted title designer Saul Bass. It starred Michael Murphy, Nigel Davenport and Lynne Frederick....

. In strategy games, ant-based species often benefit from increased production rates due to their single-minded focus, such as the Klackons in the Master of Orion
Master of Orion
Master of Orion is a turn-based, 4X science fiction computer strategy game released in 1993 by MicroProse on the MS-DOS and Mac OS operating systems. The purpose of the game is to lead one of ten races to dominate the galaxy through a combination of diplomacy and conquest while developing...

series of games or the ChCht in Deadlock II. These characters are often credited with a hive mind
Group mind (science fiction)
A group mind, hive mind or group ego in science fiction is a single consciousness occupying many bodies. Its use in literature goes back at least as far as Olaf Stapledon's science fiction novel Last and First Men ....

, a common misconception about ant colonies.

See also


  • Ant robotics
    Ant robotics
    Ant robotics is a special case of swarm robotics. Swarm robots are simple and cheap robots with limited sensing and computational capabilities. This makes it feasible to deploy teams of swarm robots and take advantage of the resulting fault tolerance and parallelism. Swarm robots cannot use...

  • Ant stings
  • International Union for the Study of Social Insects
    International Union for the Study of Social Insects
    International Union for the Study of Social Insects is an association of entomologists from different countries engaged in research of social insects...

  • Myrmecological News
    Myrmecological news
    Myrmecological News is an independent, international, non-profit, peer-reviewed scientific journal devoted to all aspects of ant research...

    (journal)
  • Task allocation and partitioning of social insects
    Task allocation and partitioning of social insects
    Task allocation and partitioning refers to the way that tasks are chosen, assigned, subdivided, and coordinated . Closely associated are issues of communication that enable these actions to occur....

  • Ant colony optimization
    Ant colony optimization
    In computer science and operations research, the ant colony optimization algorithm ' is a probabilistic technique for solving computational problems which can be reduced to finding good paths through graphs....


External links