What Are the Jobs For Which the New Ants Are Trained?
Using the technique of classical conditioning, scientists trained ants to identify cancer cell lines by their odor. Some cancerous cells produce volatile organic compounds as a result of their metabolism. The scientists placed ants in a test arena with a cancer cell line and a control cell line. They recorded the ants’ behavior using a video camera.
The scientists placed ants near the cell lines for three weeks. The ants were trained to associate the cancer cell line with a sugary reward. After the ants learned the association, they were reinforced with the reward in two to three different trials. They also learned to discriminate between the cancer cell lines and normal cell lines.
Using pheromones, ants communicate with one another. They touch their feelers to determine where to find food and nectar. They also send messages to the entire colony.
The ants have developed very well-developed olfactory systems. They can produce pheromones that create chemical trails that lead other ants to food sources. They also detect danger through pheromones. They also have a strong sense of duty. When each ant does its share of work, ants live in peace. They never fight with each other.
Some ants have been kept as pets by humans. They produce a sweet scent that some people find pleasant. They are also used as a cheaper alternative to sniffer dogs.
A PhD student in d’Ettorre’s lab was inspired by the chemical signals in ants. He wondered if the signals could be used as a biomarker for cancer.