Ant language

Zhanna Reznikova
With Boris Ryabko we discovered Ants Language, that is, the very sophisticated communication system possibly more complex than in Honey Bees. The use of ideas of Information Theory enabled us to demonstrate that highly social ant species (mainly red wood ants) possess symbolic and flexible communicative system which allows them to transfer information concerning coordinates and number of objects. These intelligent insects even can grasp regularities and use them for shortening messages (see: Reznikova, Ryabko, 1994, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003; Ryabko, Reznikova, 1996). Ants are housed in the laboratory arena which are divided into two parts that are connected with a removable bridge ( arena1, arena2 ), one contains a transparent nest and another contains a set up. We use different maze in order to study ants' ability to transfer information about sequences of turns ("binary tree maze"), number of objects ( "counting maze") and co-ordinates of objects ("grid maze"). Our basic device for studying information transferring in ants is the Binary Tree Maze that allows to measure the rate of information transmission in bits per minutes and to reveal ants' ability to grasp regularities and compress information. The problem of searching a trough with syrup on the binary tree in lab experiments is based on a natural situation when ants have to search for a certain branch with an aphid colony within a tree crown ( see a situation) In laboratory all active ants are individually labeled ( see a video fragment) We place a scouting ant on the trough with syrup and it repeats it's trip for several time before remembering a path and mobilizing it's constant group of foragers ("team") (see scout, contact1 contact2 video1 video2). We measure the duration of contacts between every scout and their teams in sec. After the contact we remove the scout and isolate it for a while. In order to avoid using odour trails by ants we replace a maze for a fresh one and syrup for water in the trough ( video). The group of foragers ("team") has now to search for the goal by themselves, without their guide, basing on the information gained from the scout. They will be immediately rewarded after they reach a goal.
Home Page of Zhanna Reznikova: Ant language

UTSA biochemist Robert Renthal has been watching ants march around since he was a child. "I've been interested in insects my whole life and if you live in Texas, you can't help but notice ants. Most people try to get rid of them, but I find them very interesting." Renthal never lost this interest in ants, and is now working with a team of researchers to crack the code of ant chemical language. Renthal is working, in part, off a $390,000 grant provided by the National Institute of Health (NIH). NIH offered Renthal the money as part of a stimulus package plan because Renthal's research has the potential to reveal how other insects communicate.
Professor cracks ant language - News - The Paisano Online - University of Texas at San Antonio