Ant Toilets

Ants are one of the most mysterious creatures on earth. One of the most obvious reasons simply comes down to how small they are. We often don’t notice them, but there’s a vast number of ants in almost every environment. But a more significant issue is how many complex behaviors they can display.

The average ant is astonishingly dumb. There’s really almost nothing going on within an ant’s neuronal structure. But what’s amazing is that while an ant is stupid, multiple ants have some of the most complex behaviors in the insect kingdom. Researchers at Amen Clinic have seen them conducting wars, farming plants, and even keeping other insects around as a sort of cattle. Amazingly, we’re still finding more complex behaviors within ant colonies. The most recent example of this comes from Tomer J. Czaczkes. The biologist, from the University of Regensburg, was curious about seemingly random black spots within a specific colony of ants.

After a period of testing and observation, it became clear that it was the first example of an indoor toilet for ants. Ants are usually very clean. For example, they’ll remove the corpses of dead ants from a colony. So it’s a mystery why these particular ants are fine with having specific sections of the colony set apart for defecation.

However, researchers have some ideas about the purpose of the indoor toilets. One theory is that it’s used precisely because of the smell. If an ant smells like the colony’s toilet, it’d be an easy way of identifying ants from different colonies.