Ant colonies – one of nature’s most ancient and efficient societies – are able to form a “collective memory” of their enemies, say scientists.
When one ant fights with an intruder from another colony it retains that enemy’s odour: passing it on to the rest of the colony.
This enables any of its nest-mates to identify an ant from the offending colony.
The findings are reported in the journal Naturwissenschaften.
… The ants defending their colony reacted much more aggressively towards intruders from a nest that a few of their workers had been familiarised with.
The team explained that “this increased aggression was… specifically targeted toward the ‘familiar’ colony, and persisted for at least 6 days” after the familiarisation trials.
Lead researcher Prof Mark Elgar explained to BBC Nature that all of the ants in the colony were able to draw on the experience of one worker.
He described this as collective or “corporate wisdom”.