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In addition to being found on every continent on Earth except Antarctica, NASA just sent a bunch into space to live in the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus Science Insert to study how they would handle a microgravity environment. There are over 12,000 species of this tiny, well-organized, little creatures. In an ant colony, you'll find the Queen, worker ants, drones, and soldiers, but was NASA is interested in is how they decide where to go since they have no head honcho ant leading the way. Without gravity, they weren't even that phased: they just grabbed the walls and kept on marching.
How they seem to know what to do remains somewhat of a mystery to Entomologists. A report in the journal Nature studied the hydrocarbons molecules covering their bodies. Originally thought to prevent them from drying out in desert climes, they also seem to play a role in ant-to-ant communication. The patroller ants are usually the first to leave the colony and search for food. Researchers coated the tiny glass beads in the same hydrocarbons as found on the bodies of the patrollers outside the colony entrance, hoping it would signal the forager ants that the patrollers were back and had found food. Their hypothesis was correct: the foragers came running.
Studying the ways ants communicate is being used by Stanford computer scientists to write better spam filter algorithms. Researchers from North Carolina State studied the 21 different ant species living in Manhattan, and discovered that the most successful species-Tetramorium Sp. E-evolved to live off human trash, essentially adapting to clean up after us messy humans. Aside from ruining a few picnics, you have to admit that these little bugs are actually pretty cool.
Ants Hold Their Own Searching in Space (Discovery News)
"In 2014, the International Space Station (ISS) took on some unusual passengers: eight groups of ants, which were observed trying to perform searches under microgravity conditions. The goal? To learn more about how these tiny creatures search an area collectively and how they adapt to changing conditions -- without any centralized control over the effort."
What Do Ants Eat? (TheIncredibleAnt.com)
"Ants might possible have the most diverse diet in all of the animal kingdom. Ants will literally eat almost anything. There are over 12,000 species of ants, and while an individual species of ant may have a relatively limited diet, collectively their diet is incredibly diverse."
Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus Science Insert - Ants in Space (NASA.gov)
"Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus Science Insert - 06: Ants in Space (CSI-06) compares behavior differences in groups of ants living in normal gravity and microgravity conditions."