Apr 22 2013

Worst Job To Be A Temp For: Barcoding Ants

Yes, you read that right. A research group, that obviously has gotten way too bored, came up with the grand idea to barcode ants. Who needs cancer research anyway? I’ve always thought that studying little ants was fun, but I did it generally with a magnifying glass. I want to know how these little critters get all over the place. I also would like to know how they ended up in my cereal that one time. I only realized after my cereal was gone and ants were floating in my milk.

ants

 

Read more after the jump.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found out that ants divide and conquer. They found three main groups of workers—one tends the young, another forages for food, and a third keeps the nest clean. Other studies have documented this segregation of labor before, but Mersch et al wanted to figure out how the ants know which groups they belong to. […]

These researchers suspected that age might play a role in the division of labor, but it’s not easy to figure out how old an ant is. Instead, the researchers spent 60 weeks in advance of the experiment tagging the ants as they emerged from their pupal state—each week got its own color code.

Analyzing the color codes, they found that younger ants were more likely to work nursing the young, and older ants were more likely to be foragers. In general, they watched ants transition from nursing to cleaning to foraging as they age, but there’s a lot of individual variation in how quickly these transitions took place. (Full Story)

They say it is for trying to determine how ant societies function.  Personally, I think it is just an excuse to bully lesser creatures. My QR scanner is telling me that the barcode on the back of this innocent little loner ant says ‘Kick Me’. Scientists can be jerks sometimes. Bullying is a real problem, especially for creatures that are the target of so many experiments.

So yes, scientists are making some poor temp glue little barcodes on to ants and then paint their butts. Moral of the story: Read the fine print before accepting a job.

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