Welcome to the ant farm
September 3, 2016 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Workers trapped for years in "a hostile environment in total darkness." - Bizarre ant colony discovered in an abandoned Polish nuclear weapons bunker.
posted by Artw (54 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
CAN ANTS GO MAD?
posted by gottabefunky at 9:05 AM on September 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


They get a cool bunker to play around in and still they are whinging. Lazy ass ants these days.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:08 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I know everyone is sick of Pixar sequels, but this concept for revisiting "A Bug's Live" seriously writes itself.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 9:11 AM on September 3, 2016 [15 favorites]


But in their years of observation, the scientists still haven't figured out for certain what the ants' source of food is.
So, basically, they don't know how we get ants.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:11 AM on September 3, 2016 [54 favorites]


"a hostile environment in total darkness."

Sounds like an IT consultant's job.
posted by Splunge at 9:11 AM on September 3, 2016 [14 favorites]


So basically, this is a naturally occurring ant farm.
posted by TedW at 9:22 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


One day the woodland ants, the dark ants, and the sea ants will rise together against the Soviet Union.
posted by swift at 9:25 AM on September 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


Everything changed when the fire ant nation attacked.
posted by The otter lady at 9:32 AM on September 3, 2016 [17 favorites]


Ant biologist here - this is a delightful (totally absurd) paper! TedW I agree - it's exactly like an ant farm where you take a bunch of worker ants (with no queens or brood). As far as the food, it's possible that this could be maintained without any... Worker ants eat very little and can survive for months without eating anything (longer at low temperatures such as this). If the colony is getting a continuous subsidy of workers from above ground, it could theoretically continue to exist with no food at all.

I love this quote from the paper (which is open access and very accessible):

"Ants are known to be flexible in their choices of nest site and nest construction, and to take advantage of exceptional opportunities. For example, myrmicines have been found nesting in big mushrooms, Myrmica rugulosa Nyl. in Sparassius crispa Fr. (Czechowski 1979) and M. rubra (L.) in Gyromitra esculenta (Pers.) Fr. (K. Vepsäläinen, unpublished). A colony of Lasius niger (L.) nested in a chassis of an immobilised car, from where the ants found their way to the cabin. The nest was built of particles of mud and dry plant remnants stuck to the underbody of the car (P. Skórka, pers. comm). Wood ants, with considerably larger nests than those of myrmicines, have been known to construct a mound in an abandoned barn (Yle uutiset 2015). A smaller mound has been found in almost complete darkness within a cubic wooden box with one-metre edges but no floor or openings apart from a narrow slit at the bottom of one side (W. Czechowski, unpublished). In all the above cases, however, the foragers of the colony had access to the outside world, and each specific mode of nesting was the choice of the ants. The masses of Formica polyctena workers trapped in the bunker had no choice. They were merely surviving and continuing their social tasks on the conditions set by the extreme environment."
posted by Buckt at 9:36 AM on September 3, 2016 [43 favorites]


So, basically, they don't know how we get ants.

They know how we get ants - they fall down from the colony above. They don't know how we sustain ants.

- filthy light thief, joke slayer
posted by filthy light thief at 9:36 AM on September 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


They produce no queens, no males, and no offspring. The massive group tending the nest is entirely composed of non-reproductive female workers, supplemented every year by a new rain of unfortunate ants falling down the ventilation shaft.

Great, thanks Neoliberals, your insane policies have even gotten to the insects. What you call "a triumph of global capital," I call "a bunch of sad confused ants." And, before you start, more austerity will not help these ants. Geeze!
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:38 AM on September 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


The residual radiation unnaturally fuels their tiny bodies, obviously.
posted by Artw at 9:38 AM on September 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is a very cool story, but at first I thought the "ant farm" was a metaphor for Polish nuclear weapons workers who have been trapped in the bunker for years. The very cool story about ants was a bit of a letdown after that.
posted by ejs at 9:39 AM on September 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Jesus, the ant war is escalating. Everything changes when the wood ants get nukes.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:46 AM on September 3, 2016




Camus comes to mind.

"One must imagine the wood ants happy."
posted by Auden at 9:59 AM on September 3, 2016 [15 favorites]


We have been here one hundred thirty-three days owing to an oversight.

The other ants and I watch the console. We live under the ground and watch the console. If certain events take place upon the console, we are to insert our keys in the appropriate locks and turn our keys. Each of us have a key. If we turn our keys simultaneously the bird flies, certain switches are activated and the bird flies. But the bird never flies. In one hundred thirty-three days the bird has not flown.

I am not well.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:00 AM on September 3, 2016 [45 favorites]


oh man this is so cool, and sad. Cold-hearted, if you will.
posted by rebent at 10:05 AM on September 3, 2016


Thanks ants. Thants.
posted by zrail at 10:07 AM on September 3, 2016 [16 favorites]


This is certainly interesting, but I feel like they buried the lede:

And it's not impossible that this underworld colony could bloom into something more. In a previous experiment, Czechowski showed that orphaned wood ant colonies will adopt queens from related species. So if a queen ant fell down the pipe, she might join this colony and start reproducing.

Now that is fascinating.
posted by clockzero at 10:09 AM on September 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


I have a question: how come the ants haven't fashoned an arc-wielder?
posted by clavdivs at 10:17 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


You would think that the ants above would move somewhere else after generations of countless lives being lost to the Pit of Darkness.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:20 AM on September 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Every year when the nest expands, thousands of worker ants fall down the pipe and cannot climb back out...The massive group tending the nest is entirely composed of non-reproductive female workers, supplemented every year by a new rain of unfortunate ants falling down the ventilation shaft.

What if it isn't unfortunate ants falling down the shaft? What if they're being pushed? And they are building the nest and piling up the bodies in a slow, generations long effort to reach back up to the top of the shaft where those alive will climb over the billions of bodies of their antecedents to wreak righteous revenge?
posted by nubs at 10:22 AM on September 3, 2016 [19 favorites]


Every year when the nest expands, thousands of worker ants fall down the pipe and cannot climb back out.
This is something I don't quite understand. Ants can climb on anything and are extremely efficient at scouting and foraging. What did prevent some bunker ants to find their way out (leaving a trail of pheromones) and re-establish relations with the upper nest? The article says that they climb on the walls but don't bother to explore the ceiling (though some can be seen close to the vent). The shaft is a mere 5 m long, not a long distance for ants.
posted by elgilito at 10:31 AM on September 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


Ant Farm? Six legs good. Four legs bad!
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:32 AM on September 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


their antecedents

excellent
posted by indubitable at 10:32 AM on September 3, 2016 [20 favorites]


Ant biologist here

If you had told me that an ant, biologist or not, was posting comments on Metafilter, I would have called you a filthy liar. I stand corrected!
posted by chinston at 10:36 AM on September 3, 2016 [14 favorites]


So it's like if random pedestrians fall into a trap-like hole in the sidewalk, and land in a feeble shadow culture of people living a muscle-memory walk-through of life above ground.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:51 AM on September 3, 2016 [15 favorites]


Getting a serious Level 7 vibe from the comments here.
posted by Splunge at 10:53 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ant biologist here

Have you stopped using the term "myrmecologist" just because nobody knows what it means?
posted by clockzero at 10:59 AM on September 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


Also: why can't we use pheromones to communicate with ants yet
posted by clockzero at 11:00 AM on September 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


You would think that the ants above would move somewhere else after generations of countless lives being lost to the Pit of Darkness.

Years ago, someone told them the bunker was a rubber-tree plant.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:27 AM on September 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


"What did prevent some bunker ants to find their way out (leaving a trail of pheromones) and re-establish relations with the upper nest? "

Maybe the black soot around the vent? It might be acting like a chalk line.
posted by I-baLL at 12:56 PM on September 3, 2016


As the ant among foreign-enemy ants is killed, so the ant without ants dies, but being without ants is as sweet as honeydew.
posted by Kattullus at 1:01 PM on September 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


This is relevant to my interests.
posted by workerant at 1:26 PM on September 3, 2016 [19 favorites]


This just proves the theory that the world is divided into cans and cants.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:38 PM on September 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Checking in.
posted by that's how you get ants at 4:57 PM on September 3, 2016 [19 favorites]


> CAN ANTS GO MAD?

Won't know until we check.

Spiders spin weird webs under the influence of narcotics. It'd be interesting to compare the morphology of the 'dark colony' in contrast with a regular colony.

There'd be constrains in comparison since the environments so different. Maybe take a queen and a cohort and establish a colony in a similar physical environment (but with sufficient nutrients and stuff) and compare and contrast.

I wonder if they put the dead bodies of their relatives to any use, like building warrens and whatnot?
posted by porpoise at 5:42 PM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I could never be a scientist, because immediately upon discovering what was going on, I'd be bringing the ants Pringles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I just wouldn't be able to stop myself.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 5:54 PM on September 3, 2016 [13 favorites]


This is fascinating from a theoretical standpoint, because life is so flexible and ants are neat, and incredibly disturbing from some kind of metaphorical conceptual standpoint. Like a horrific post-apocalyptic vision of environmental collapse.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:10 PM on September 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


This story is so metal.
posted by technodelic at 8:12 PM on September 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


Ant biologist here

Have you stopped using the term "myrmecologist" just because nobody knows what it means?


Why do people always assume that a specialist in any branch of formic science is automatically a myrmecologist?
posted by Segundus at 8:38 PM on September 3, 2016


They're poorly informed?
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:34 PM on September 3, 2016


Of course the regular ants keep repairing their broken nest, but once a year the Morlock ants send up an expedition to precipitate the next floor collapse.
posted by Ashenmote at 12:39 AM on September 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


While these scientists were examining these ants, did they ever think to push some long boards down onto this pile of debris and ant carcasses in order to provide a wooden bridge (and food source) out of this ant hell on earth? Maybe something like Scientists without Borders for Ants?
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:22 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Soooooo, these ants are now alienated from the main colony above... Doesn't that make this an Alien Ant Farm?

And just like in movies, I'll show myself out.
posted by MattWPBS at 5:09 AM on September 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Dead ants, dead ants,
dead ants dead ants dead ants dead ants dead ants...
...piled around the nest mound.
posted by drlith at 6:28 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


CHUD: the Antening
posted by gottabefunky at 10:10 AM on September 4, 2016


that's CAUD...
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:22 AM on September 4, 2016


I … For one.
posted by gubo at 1:56 PM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Poor ants. Somebody should build them a ladder.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:18 PM on September 4, 2016


While these scientists were examining these ants, did they ever think to push some long boards down onto this pile of debris and ant carcasses in order to provide a wooden bridge (and food source) out of this ant hell on earth?

Something something Prime Directive.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:16 AM on September 5, 2016


I honestly wonder if this is the ant version of Crone Island. No emotional labor for cranky queen ants, no males underfoot, just lots of lady ants quietly being ants.
posted by sobell at 8:23 PM on September 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I honestly wonder if this is the ant version of Crone Island. No emotional labor for cranky queen ants, no males underfoot, just lots of lady ants quietly being ants.

I can sympathize with that motivation for the ants, but really wish they could have found a better location for their Crone Island.
posted by nubs at 7:48 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


« Older “...a history riddled with racial tensions and...   |   "Open all the cages in the zoo" kind of stupid Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments