Antsy RFID

I’m rather late to the party on this one because it’s been picked up all over the place, but it’s the rather cool news that York University (in the person of PhD student Samuel Ellis) is tagging a thousand ants with RFID tags to see where they end up. A single colony of the brilliantly named northern hairy wood ants (Formica lugubris) nest across several sites and by simply positioning the RFID reader above a stream of ants, it’s possible to record the identity of each ant that passes*, thus finding out when it’s where.

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Dr Elva Robinson, Ellis’ supervisor, has done a lot of cool stuff looking at group behaviour in ants, mainly along the lines of elucidating what rules ants follow that together form colony-level behaviours. The paper ‘Do ants make direct comparisons?‘ that appeared in Am Nat a few years ago also employed RFID-tagged ants and is definitely worth a look.

* or rather most ants; I’m not sure what the interference is like at that range.

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