Monday, 4 August 2014

Ants Carry Other Live Ones as Means of Transportation: Further Evidence That They Must Be Communicating [Videos]
A few days ago I wrote about “Why Do Ants Carry Their Dead”. This article is the sequel.

I had shot a few clips of ants in the garden, and since then kept the camera close to the door to take it with me whenever going outside. Today, I see one carrying the body of another. I turn the camera on, thinking that it’s like what I have observed before, one carrying a dead body. Though all I could see through the lens is that the ant suddenly left the body on the floor ― possibly out of fear from me because they usually freak out from the shadow ― and moved a little further.

Then, some commotion happened and another ant appeared on the scene. It was all too fast, literally three seconds. I could only follow one, the carrier, until it disappeared into the grass. This is what I thought happened.

I went to watch the video on the laptop, and it first appeared like it might be carrying something else, like food. But after a few ‘pause’ manoeuvres, I found one more sensational behaviour in the world of ants.

Watch from 0:3 to 0:6. You may need to pause a few times.

At the beginning I thought I needed to inform the scientific community right away. No seriously, I truly thought I came to witness something rare. My reasoning was, ants carry their dead, and now we know why, so what are the odds that they also carry their live ones.

The carried one looked quite healthy too, so it wasn’t sick or dying. I mean, whats up with these folks and carrying each other. Besides, I was looking up ants a few days ago and none of this came up.

However, before I share the findings with the scientific community I thought the reasonable thing to do is to Google it first. And BAM. Ants proved to me yet again that they are exceptionally phenomenal creatures. 

Just like I found the question about carrying the dead already asked and answered, I also found this one. Not only on Yahoo Answers, but also on AntBlog where other ant-observers get answered by the AntAsk Team. Bless the Internet.

Alright, now listen to the madness...

Apparently, this behaviour I had the chance to witness is common among different species of ants. The ‘carriers’ are workers from the same nest who carry one another, usually when moving to a different nesting site. There is a name for this and it’s called Social Carrying Behaviour.

Like carrying their deads to specialised dump areas as we have seen in the earlier piece, I find this to be an equally remarkable social activity for these minuscule beings. 

Adult nestmates carry each other for several reasons. But the most common is when the colony, or parts of the colony, move from one nest site to another as a means of transportation. Like the rest of the tasks in that complex society, carrying behaviour is a recruitment technique ― an essential component of the division of labour ideology they adopt and actually thrive at.

It is slightly similar to Tandem Running, which is when one worker shows a suitable nesting site to the recruit by running ahead and remaining in contact through their antennae. They have realtors with mobile phones too, how cute.

Scientists have been able to study social carrying behaviour in several different ant species. What they found is that different species can have a different style of carrying adult nestmates. I kid you not. 

Ants from the genus Pseudomyrmex, for example, carry an adult mate by grabbing it by the base of the mandibles (mouthparts) as it curls up onto the back of the carrying individual. The eyes of the carried one face forward in such position, and this style is called the “Parasol-Posture”. There is a name for that too. 

The carried individual may be also grabbed by the base of the mandibles, though it is positioned upside-down and curls up under the ventral side of the carrier’s head, as seen in the featured photograph.

In the ant subfamily Myrmeciinae, adult transport is not stereotyped; workers gasp others from any part of the body and drags them over the ground, casually.

In other cases, the transporter ant simply grasps the nestmate from a leg or any other part of the body, lifts it up, then carries it away.

This Flickr set called Behavior of Ants - Social Carrying has lots of cool photos. And the video below shows great details of this fascinating carrying behaviour.

You can also watch a video of ants daisy-chaining to carry a much large millipede, a behaviour never seen before on footage. Take a LOOK!

Ants live in highly advanced societies with carriers, realtors, builders, farmers, soldiers, and cleaners. Of course they communicate. It’s actually strange they only discovered this in 2013. The more I know about those tiny, living sentient beings, the more I respect them. And the more I think so many times before ending the life of one.

Stay Enchanted, it’s fun. 


The first article about observing the carrying behaviour: Why Do Ants Carry Their Dead and Other Fascinating Facts

This is the next one about peacefully kicking ants out of the kitchen: Guiding Ants Out Of The Kitchen...Alive

Reviving a Drowning Bee [Video] — Learning The Do’s and Don’ts

Befriending a Flying Insect

From Insects to Crows: Dogless and Searching for Companionship

Animals Getting High: Weird Nature ― Peculiar Potions [Documentary]

A Dieu Caramella
Training a Gentle Giant 

Some Animals I Shot

Why Cats Are Not Dogs

My ant’s husband is a remarkable chap ;}
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  1. What kind of ants are in this video?

    1. Not sure. They were filmed in Los Angeles, California. There are more than 12000 species of ants in the world, with over 700 types in the U.S alone. Among those which are most likely to be found in our homes are: Red Imported Fire Ants, Rover Ants, Crazy Ants, Carpenter Ants, and Pavement Ants.