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Stanford Report, May 7, 2003

Ants rely on smell and touch when deciding to go to work

A remarkable thing about ants is how thousands of workers can join together and build complex colonies without any supervision. A mature colony of red harvester ants consists of 10,000 or more workers performing different tasks, such as nest maintenance, patrolling and foraging for food. In a May 1, 2003, study published in Nature magazine, Associate Professor Deborah Gordon and Postdoctoral Fellow Michael Greene discovered that foragers only leave the colony after they’ve smelled the bodies of patrollers who have returned to the nest.

VIDEO: Jack Hubbard, Alex Wild, Mark Shwartz