Worker Ants Are Lazier Than You Thought
The worker ant: even the name of this tiny insect calls fourth impressions of hard work and dedication, the tireless and duty-bound individual laboring for the greater good of his community. However, it turns out that this really doesn't describe your everyday worker ant. In fact, the great majority of the little buggers are actually slackers.
That's at least according to a study recently published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, which details how the working class in your average ant colony spend most of their time procrastinating.
Researchers reached this conclusion after reviewing 5-minute video segments of ant action recorded six times a day for two weeks. What they found was surprising, with nearly 72 percent of the observed workers slacking at least half the time. More stunning still, a fourth of the entire worker ant population was never seen working at all, over the entire observation period. A mere 2.6 percent of the workers were always active.
Ant behavior and class designation has long been a subject of study, and past work has led to many experts to suspect that worker ants actually work in shifts dictated by different circadian rhythms. However, these new results cast that theory into doubt, as many of the observed ants stayed lazy regardless of the time of day.
A study published earlier this February has already highlighted one reason a worker might not be leaving the nest to gather food. Toilet duty, it appears, is regulated to timid ants who are afraid to venture into the outside world.
Knowing this, laziness may not exactly explain what's going on in nests across the world. Experts suspect that inactivity may actually play an important role in the division of labor -- just in ways we don't yet understand.
"Our results underline the importance of inactivity as a behavioral state and the need for further studies on its evolution," the researchers added.
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