The Science of Underground Kingdoms

Anthills…a mound of crumbly dirt to many but look closely and you’ll discover tunnels diving downward, branching and leading to specialized chambers that serve as home for the colony’s queen, as nurseries for its young, as farms for fungus cultivated for food, and as dumps for its trash. These are underground cities, some of them home to millions of individuals, reaching as far as 25 feet underground and often lasting for decades.


But what motivates and informs ants’ abilities to create these amazing structures? An interdisciplinary research team including Jose Andrade, the George W. Housner Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at Caltech and Joe Parker, assistant professor of biology and biological engineering, whose research focuses on ants and their ecological relationships with other species, recently published a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences exploring these very questions, research that will help humans not only improve our ability to dig underground but also understand motivating factors of the brain.


Read more on TCCI® for Neuroscience site


Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson/Wikimedia Commons