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Unrelated Obstructions

Posted by Myrddin on 13 Aug 2009 at 20:55 GMT

Have you considered placing unrelated objects in close proximity to the trapped ants? As a followup experiment, it would be interesting to see whether the biting behavior directed at the nylon is specific to the trapped ant, or would be carried out on any foreign object in close proximity.

For example, a blade of grass, a piece of unattached nylon, and an immobile pebble. It would be interesting to see if the ants could distinguish between offending objects (instrumental in hindering the trapped ant) and unoffending objects, or to see what types of objects they were likely to consider offending.

No competing interests declared.

RE: Unrelated Obstructions

khollis replied to Myrddin on 14 Aug 2009 at 14:23 GMT

Yes, we have considered following that line of thinking; however, it will be trickier than it at first appears for the following reasons: The ants do not bite at the sand; rather, they transport it away from the snare. So, we assume that if we merely placed nylon thread nearby, they would just remove it. Also, they do *not* bite at the uncovered filter paper either; rather, they tug and pull on it. Also not a good test. But, you might say, what if we secured nylon thread near the victim? How close? If the thread is too close and they do bite at it, I'm not certain that those results would get at the question that is puzzling you (and us!). That is, somehow they recognize what is holding the victim in place, but that mechanism is not likely to be foolproof. Nonetheless, whatever is that mechanism, it requires more than the simple algorithm of "Follow the call for help and then dig and/or pull on (labeled) limbs."

No competing interests declared.