Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The Hidden Life of Ants - Photo Gallery
Food | Warriors | Shelter | Communication
 

FOOD

 
Marauder Ants Overwhelm a Frog, Photo © Mark W. Moffett/Minden Pictures
Photo © Mark W. Moffett/
Minden Pictures

Group hunting, producing crops, and raising other animals for meals are some of the solutions that both human societies and large ant colonies have evolved to obtain a large amount of food efficiently.
 
Members of larger societies have to work together to accomplish major tasks that no one person, or ant, could do alone. To contribute effectively in these groups, the individual members have limited, but specialized, skills.  Among ants, the worker’s physical size and shape often determines her role in the colony.
 
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WARRIORS

 
Ants fighting over a grasshopper, Photo © Mark W. Moffett/Minden Pictures
Photo © Mark W. Moffett/
Minden Pictures

Ants have developed a variety of strategies for protecting their food and the nest, or wresting resources from other colonies.
 
Biological warfare. Weapons of mass destruction. Suicide missions. Demilitarized zones. Large-scale invasions and one-on-one combat. Not only humans go to war.
 
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SHELTER

 
Entrance of Pheidole ant nest, Photo © Mark W. Moffett/Minden Pictures
Photo © Mark W. Moffett/
Minden Pictures

Ant nests are found almost everywhere, and come in an incredible variety of shapes and sizes.
 
Some ants dig deep and build large, complex, underground cities with varied and specialized chambers.  Other ant species simply use tree leaves—or even their own bodies—to create their nests.
 
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COMMUNICATION

 
Bulldog Ant & Larvae, Photo © Mark W. Moffett/Minden Pictures
Photo © Mark W. Moffett/
Minden Pictures

How do ants stay in touch with their nest mates?
 
Text messaging is out, but they have other ways to communicate. Ants use pheromones (chemical signals), physical touch, and sometimes the vibration of their bodies to send messages about food, enemies, and the nest.
 

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