Kissing Ants

For ants, EVERY day is Valentine’s Day!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Fun fact – ants are GREAT kissers! Scientists have long been confused about WHY ants swap spit. Are they all just crushin’ on each other?! 

Sanja Hakala and team at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland were curious. They analyzed the molecules in the stomachs of ants. That is, their SECOND stomach, which is reserved for storing and sharing fluid with their colony.  

What did they find? The contents of ant stomachs vary depending on the colony’s age and the ant’s role.Nurse ants have anti-aging molecules. This helps them live longer and raise the next generation. Forager ants have more molecules for processing carbs so they can grow strong FAST. 

On the flip side, older ants need to focus more on reproducing and sustaining their colonies. So, they build up nutrients to fuel large worker ants that can do just that.

So all that mackin’ is what keeps the colony healthy and thriving!

Aw. . . Now we know why kisses heal everything! 

Reference: Hakala, S. M., Meurville, M. P., Stumpe, M., & LeBoeuf, A. C. (2021). Biomarkers in a socially exchanged fluid reflect colony maturity, behavior and distributed metabolism. eLife, 10, e74005.