Ant acoustics

 
Published: Friday 15 November 1996

Ants are known to relay information to one another through chemicals called pheromones which diffuse through air. But Robert Hickling of the University of Mississippi in US suggests that ant hotline for distress or danger may be acoustic and not chemical, as sound travels faster than air-borne pheromone molecules. When forced to communicate urgently, ants generate sounds by rubbing a small appendage called gaster over ridges on their backs. Other ants detect these sound vibrations with their sensitive bodies (ants have no ears), and respond likewise ( Discover , Vol 17, No 8).

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