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Old 05-24-2006, 01:46 PM   #1
Undertoad
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5/24/2006: Ant tunnels



Picked up by Boing Boing, suggested by multiple users, posted by glatt, and "nominated" for IotD in another Cellar thread.

How can you tell what ants are doing, when they build their nest? An ant farm shows it to you... as if the ants only had a little rectangle to build in, and if they only had to build it in two dimensions. Don't limit your ants!

This clever method of "excavating" ant tunnels is described thusly:
Quote:
In the second method, the nest void was filled with a thin slurry of orthodontal plaster poured into the nest entrance (Williams and Lofgren 1988). This produced a (usually) perfect three-dimensional rendering of the nest's voids. The hardened cast was excavated and then reassembled to produce the finished cast. For reassembly, chambers were supported with steel rods driven into holes in a backboard. Because the shafts of P. badius are large in diameter, the thin slurry often completely filled a 3 m-deep nest in a single pour. The sandy soils of the Florida coastal plains allow the plaster slurry to displace the air within the chambers, filling them completely. Heavy clay soils often produce incomplete casts and voids within the plaster because of trapped air. Although a few images of the nest casts of several ant species have been published (Tschinkel 2003), the details of the nest architecture of P.+badius are presented here for the first time.
Good idea, and the result is as the above... an amazing 3D view of what the ants are really digging when they head underground.

Many more images are available at the gallery at the link above.
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Old 05-24-2006, 01:49 PM   #2
Griff
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Can you see all the little carcasses up close or are they sealed in their rubbery grave?
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Old 05-24-2006, 01:53 PM   #3
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Cool! Their little tunnels even have switchbacks.
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Old 05-24-2006, 01:54 PM   #4
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Reading the link, they mention different materials they had tried, including molten aluminum. They had a problem with their socks catching on fire when standing in the bottom of a two meter deep pit, trying to pour the molten metal down into the final portion of the tunnel system. Crazy scientists! I love 'em.
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Old 05-24-2006, 02:14 PM   #5
ferret88
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kinda looks like a houseplant coated in something.

wonder how long it'll be before the scientists start to theorize about what each chamber was for.
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Old 05-24-2006, 02:23 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Griff
Can you see all the little carcasses up close or are they sealed in their rubbery grave?
The page mentions that the ants up and move to a new site multiple times a year, so the cast was probably taken after the nest was abandoned.
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Old 05-24-2006, 02:36 PM   #7
Griff
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So, how am I supposed to get the insect rightists fired up?
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Old 05-24-2006, 02:43 PM   #8
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I want one of these recast in aluminum so bad!
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Old 05-24-2006, 03:06 PM   #9
milkfish
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I'd looked the article up when I saw it on Boingboing. I think they mentioned that they would recapture the ants before making the cast, because I was wondering about that part too.

I liked the part at the end where they made an artificial nest, put ants in the chambers, and dug it up some time later (thus finding out that the young ants would go to the bottom and the older ones went to the top). Lots of fun was had by all, I am sure.
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Old 05-24-2006, 03:39 PM   #10
capnhowdy
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A painstaking process to say the least. I'd like to have one.
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Old 05-24-2006, 03:48 PM   #11
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Is that some kind of deep-fried something or other?
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Old 05-24-2006, 03:55 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brianna
Is that some kind of deep-fried something or other?
Yes, it's a deep-fried failure to read the thread title.
How did you know?
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Old 05-24-2006, 03:57 PM   #13
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How long before the first apt. complex or hotel reproduction?
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Old 05-24-2006, 04:11 PM   #14
Kagen4o4
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imagine being an ant at the bottom and being told someone has some mad sugar at the bottom of one of the other tunnels. would you bother?

id be scared by ants if there were connecting tunnels. i mean really scared. it would show an intelligence like no other considering their size. i mean looking at that is amazing enough.
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Old 05-24-2006, 04:28 PM   #15
Flint
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kagen4o4

id be scared by ants if there were connecting tunnels.
...what if the tunnels aren't connected for a reason?
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