A global effort to photograph every species of ant on this planet is embarking on an international tour, stopping by museums and scientific collections in the United Kingdom. With thousands of American ant species already accounted for, now Brian Fisher and colleagues at the California Academy of Sciences are taking AntWeb overseas.
Fire ants might be infuriating little beasts, an invasive species we'd all be pleased to see banished to its native Brazil, but it turns out a fire ant colony has some pretty amazing properties. In groups, they knit together, more like a fabric than anything else, and are waterproof, totally flexible, and nearly indestructible. A mechanical engineer describes these groups as behaving like a thick liquid.
Taking cues from slime molds, ants, and living biological cells, a team of University of Pittsburgh researchers has designed a system of artificial cells that can communicate with one another and cooperate to carry out tasks. The computer models they've devised could lead to artificial cellular systems that perform highly specialized jobs at the microscopic level.
There’s not a whole lot to we can say to preface this photo except yes, it is real. The image of the tiny Asian weaver ant clinging upside-down to a smooth surface holding a 500 mg weight – that’s 100 times its body weight – captured first prize in the first Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) science photo competition, and with good cause; not only is it an amazing close-up of a tiny creature, but it captures some pretty amazing biology as well.
Moving through real-life battlefields inevitably proves trickier than playing a game of Minesweeper, but Spanish researchers and army officers have converted the video game Panzer General into a simulator that can test troop maneuver algorithms based on ant colony behavior.
Making babies requires a male and a female, a sperm and an egg, right? Well, the wild world of animals is often more creative than the lot of us humans when it comes to making whoopee. In fact, some animals don't have sex at all, thank you very much.
Just this month, bug biologists found the first all-female ant species, Mycocepurus smithii. The queen ant clones herself by making eggs that develop into adult females without fertilization. Some of those females will then become queens themselves. Apparently the species has been sexless for enough generations that the ants might not be able to mate even if they wanted to. Dissections showed that a key female sex part that normally interlocks with a male organ during mating had shrunken to a ghost of its former self.