Ants are thought to be industrious and efficient, with everyone in the colony working really hard. However, that might not be as true as once thought. Some species of ants were actually found to have what's called lazy ants in their colonies and scientists are baffled!
In 2015, a group of ants called Temnothorax rugatulus are labelled as lazy. This species of ants build their colonies under rocks in the lands of western North America. Daniel Charbonneau and Anna Dornhaus at the University of Arizona think that these lazy ants are old. They noticed that these lazy ants seem to do nothing--nothing at all.
However, when observed keenly, they found that these “lazy” ants aren't actually as useless as they thought; their behaviors are just different from other ants. “These ants walk more slowly, are isolated in colony interaction networks and have the smallest behavioural repertoires,” he says. These lazy ants aren't necessarily old as they've once assumed, they just seem to be immature workers.
Their appearances are different too, with plumper bodies and usually having egg cells inside them. Researchers hypothesized that this might their way of storing food--putting it inside them to share with other ants later. “Inactive workers [may be] storing food for the colony,” he says. It could also be that the eggs inside them are the food for their brothers and sisters, since there are other species of ants that lay unfertilized edible eggs. However, what this laziness for is still uncertain.
“As the authors state, there very likely is not just one reason for these inactive ants,” Erik Frank at the University of Würzburg in Germany says. “They probably have various benefits for the colony and reasons for their inactivity.”
The researchers are now looking into other ant species to see if lazy ants exist on other types. “The next thing is really starting to look at the function and explanation for inactivity across species to see if there’s some main mechanism which facilitates inactivity,” Charbonneau says.
If proven beneficial, lazy ants would be our hero. Why? They're basically a living representation of how being lazy can be useful to the society. Yes?
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