Chipping ants to understand colonies


University of Lausanne biologists chipped hundreds of ants and digitally tracked them to see how they form social groups and work collectively to get stuff done. Based on the data, they created heat maps and visualized the ants' trajectories. From Nature:

The biologists… have found that the workers fall into three social groups that perform different roles: nursing the queen and young; cleaning the colony; and foraging for food. The different groups move around different parts of the nest, and the insects tend to graduate from one group to another as they age, the researchers write in a paper published today in Science.

“The paper is a game-changer, in the size and detail of the data set that was collected,” says Anna Dornhaus, an entomologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

"Tracking whole colonies shows ants make career moves" (Thanks, Nic Weidinger!)

Below is a video, accelerated five times.


  1. For a real game-changer we could chip some biologists and see what kind of data we get from their nocturnal interactions.

    1. to understand colonies? or understand how to one day track people with chip implants?!?

      I bet they took the ants’ guns away, too.

    2. Without those chips, none of the ants were permitted either to forage or to regurgitate food for the larvae…

      I’m told that their charismatic overlord really puts the ‘ant’ in ‘antichrist’, as well.

  2. Everyone’s making Number of the Beast jokes, but I’m sitting here wondering what poor grad student got the job of gluing barcodes on each individual ant and then painting them.

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