A Center For Nassau Ants?: “What is this? A center for ANTS?” Derek Zoolander screams as he hurls a plastic model of a proposed children’s center onto the ground. “How can we be expected to teach children to read if they can’t even fit inside the building?” he continues. “…The center has to be at least (pause) three times bigger than this.”
So goes one of the funniest scenes from Ben Stiller’s 2001 classic comedy, Zoolander. Stiller plays a successful fashion model who is long on looks, but short on brains. Owen Wilson plays Hansel, an up-and-coming model who threatens Zoolander’s place at the top. Hansel isn’t much smarter than Zoolander, and though the pair start the movie as enemies, they eventually become great friends.
Though Zoolander portrays male models as not much smarter than ants, humans are obviously different from ants in important ways. But in this recent post, we showed how humans and ants are surprisingly similar.
National Geographic recently ran an article describing another likeness between ants and humans. They described a study published in Biology Letters in which ants were divided into two artificial enclosures: one with a narrow opening which prevented ants from leaving and another with a wide opening. The researchers then killed 10 ants and placed them in each nest. (Nassau Ants—and many other insects—naturally remove the dead bodies of colony members.)
The result was that the ants dealing with the narrow opening couldn’t remove their dead—and they had a much higher death rate than the other group. (This had been hypothesized, but never formally tested.) The researchers speculate that the reason for this result is that microorganisms from the dead ants infected the living members of the colony, causing more to die. Similar to humans, then, ants may separate themselves from the bodies of their dead for hygienic reasons.
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