Communal peeing

by Jim Caryl

[ratings]

I happened upon a paper that made me smile this morning.

Apparently there are these Ants, Cataulacus muticus, which happen to be obligate bamboo-nesting Ants. They live inside giant bamboo, which as any survival expert knows is prone to a bit of flooding in the hollow internodes. This of course riles the Ants a little, so their response is apparently two-fold. During the heavy rains, the workers form a living umbrella over their nest entrance using their packed heads.

Of course, rainwater may still seep in. So not being ones to shirk responsibility, the Ants respond by drinking the water, exiting the nest and excreting the water droplets down the outer stem surface – basically, they hang their arses out of the window. This, in the wit of the authors, has been termed communal, or cooperative, “peeing”. Fantastic.

For those with access: Maschwitz & Moog (2000) Communal Peeing: a new mode of flood control in ants. Naturwissenschaften 87: 563-565.

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