Look who's talking

Published: Monday 15 July 1996

Ants, who else! Fire ants were believed to communicate mainly through pheromones -chemical signalling messages. Researchers also knew that the insects made sounds, whose function they were unclear about, by moving the abdomen up and down. Robert Hickling and colleagues from the University of Mississippi, US, have now recorded the sounds by inserting a microphone into an ant colony. The recordings include, besides those of general alarm calls, even of plaintive cries for help. Hickling is developing a recording system that farmers can use in fields to listen for crop pests (Science, Vo1272, No 5264).

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