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Featured News Tiny ant brains achieve much

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Wed, 19 Oct 2016

Tiny ant brains achieve much

Ant brain
An ant brain vastly magnified.

A James Cook University scientist has peered into the brains of ants to discover how their tiny minds achieve so much, with so little.

JCU’s Professor Simon Robson said the research, just released in the prestigious Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal, is technologically impressive.

“We were able to make these findings because of our ability to look into a tiny ant’s brain and understand what is going on,” he said.

The scientists found that the more socially complex a group of ants was, the bigger their brains were. However, unlike socially complex primates, they achieve and maintain larger brains in a fundamentally different way. Ants have evolved alternative ways to be smart.

“We have confirmed for the first time that socially complex ants, like socially complex primates, have relatively bigger brains,” said Professor Robson.

“But unlike socially complex primates, bigger ant brains do not require significantly more energy to run. Something amazing is going on here.”

Professor Robson said the study of ant brain functions will continue. “It looks like the collective intelligence of ants potentially rivals other animals, but ants have achieved this in a fundamentally different manner. They are achieving so much with so little.”

Paper available upon request.
Close-up pics of ant brains: http://bit.ly/2efCBZe (Copy and paste into your address bar).

Contacts

Professor Simon Robson
P: (07) 4781 5389
E: Simon.robson@jcu.edu.au