Ants Talking

These findings were just reported in the journal Science, and coverd by
Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter for the “Times”.


Yet the Qur’an revealed this miracle over 1400 years ago: “At length, when they came to a (lowly)
valley of ants, one of the ants said: “O ye ants, get into your habitations,
lest Solomon and his hosts crush you (under foot) without knowing it.


So he smiled, amused at her speech; and he said: “O my Lord! so order me that I
may be grateful for Thy favours, which thou hast bestowed on me and on my
parents, and that I may work the righteousness that will please Thee: And
admit me, by Thy Grace, to the ranks of Thy righteous Servants.” (Qur’an,
27:18 – 19).

Hills are alive with the sound of ants talking – Miracle from Quran

By Lewis Smith

Ant vocabulary is much larger than previously thought

Advances in audio technology have enabled scientists to discover that ants
routinely talk to each other in their nests.

Most ants have a natural washboard and plectrum built into their abdomens
that they can rub together to communicate using sound.

Using miniaturised microphones and speakers that can be inserted
unobtrusively into nests, researchers established that the queens can issue
instructions to their workers.

The astonished researchers, who managed to make the first recordings of
queen ants “speaking”, also discovered that other insects can mimic the ants
to make them slaves.

Rebel’s large blue butterfly is one of about 10,000 creatures that have a
parasitic relationship with ants and has now been found to have learnt to
imitate the sounds as well as using chemical signals.

The butterfly’s caterpillars are carried by ants into the nests where they
beg for food and are fed by the workers. When a colony is disturbed the ants
will rescue the caterpillars before their own broods.

Research several decades ago had shown that ants were able to make alarm
calls using sounds, but only now has it been shown that their vocabulary may
be much bigger and that they can “talk” to each other.

Professor Jeremy Thomas, of the University of Oxford, said improvements in
technology had made the discoveries possible because it meant the ants could
be recorded and subjected to playbacks without becoming alarmed.

By placing miniature speakers into the nest and playing back sounds made by
a queen, the researchers were able to persuade ants to stand to attention.

“When we played the queen sounds they did ‘en garde’ behaviour. They would
stand motionless with their antennae held out and their jaws apart for hours
– the moment anyone goes near they will attack,” he said.

He described how the ants would press their antennae to the speaker just as
they would seek to greet another ant in the nest.

Professor Thomas said it remained unclear how much the ants relied on sound
for language but he suspected that further analysis would reveal a wider
vocabulary than had been seen yet.

“The most important discovery is that within the ant colony different sounds
can provoke different reactions,” he said. “I would be very surprised if we
didn’t get different types of sound.

“It’s within the power of the ant to play different tunes by changing the
rhythm with which they rub.”

He added that the detection of the role of sounds provided the “final piece
of the jigsaw” to explain how Rebel’s large blue caterpillars survive in
ants’ nests and should help to guide conservationists in trying to save the
endangered European mountain species.

Francesca Barbero, of the University of Turin, said: “Our new work shows
that the role of sound in information exchange within ant colonies has been
greatly underestimated.”

Karsten Schönrogge, of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Oxfordshire,
said the mimicry by the caterpillars was so convincing that the ants
afforded them higher status than their own young. They will even slaughter
their own young to feed the interlopers when food is scarce.

The findings were reported in the journal Science.

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