Ants are thought of as being hard workers that work together in efficient teams, or colonies. However, new research studying the behavior of individual ants shows that they do less work per capita than believed.
In order to sort out individual ants from the masses, researchers sorted the ants, separated into five lab-based colonies, painting them with dots of different colored paint. A camera then recorded segments, each five minutes long, six times a day for two weeks.
The results were shocking; 71.9 percent of the ants were inactive at least half of the time, while an entire 25.1 percent were never seen working. Only 2.6 percent, a tiny fraction of the ants, were always working.
The results of the study counter the previous hypothesis that ants take shifts dictated by circadian rhythm. The new study shows that lazy worker ants are just lazy; the time of day does not play into their behavior. One theory for this division of labor is that inactive ants are either too old or too young to work, and future studies could elaborate why certain ants are lazy and whether activity changes with age. (Natalie Gilmore)