Urban Ants Love Junk Food Almost As Much As Humans

By Meera Dolasia on April 10, 2015

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Dropped a chip or cookie on the pavement? Don't bother picking it up especially if you live in an urban area like Manhattan. That's because according to a team of researchers led by North Carolina State University's Clint Penick, some industrious ants will soon carry it away. For believe it or not, many city ants have come to love junk food almost as much as humans do!

The team began by collecting 100 specimens of 21 ant species that dwell across Manhattan - from sidewalks to medians, as well as parks. They then measured the levels of carbon 13 in the bodies of each species. That's because foods containing corn and sugar cane, which is pretty much all processed food as well as meat, contain a considerable amount of this isotope.

They discovered that the Tetramorium ant species that live in the nooks and crannies of city pavements across the world had the highest level of C13. Those that dwell in parks and lawns had considerably lower levels of the isotope. While these findings were not surprising, the low levels of C13 in the L.emarginatus ant species, certainly was, given that they live close to humans. The researchers believe this could be because the ants are recent migrants and have yet to acquire a taste for junk food.

Penick believes that adapting to human food is probably the reason the ants are able to thrive in an area where their natural diet of dead insects is scarce. The researchers now plan to test if the tiny insects show a preference for human junk food even when their normal diet is readily available - so stay tuned!

Resources: Guardian.com, gizmondo.com

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Article Comprehension (3 questions)

  1. Why does the author believe we should not pick up any junk food that falls on the pavement?
  2. How did Clint Penick come to the conclusion that some ants love junk food?

Critical Thinking Challenge

If the researchers were to examine your C13 levels which ant species...

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  • Awesome111Sunday, September 18, 2016 at 5:38 pm
    • coolgamer24
      coolgamer24Monday, August 29, 2016 at 7:45 am
      Don't bother picking up a cookie because the ants will pick it up soon especially in urban areas such as Manhattan. The citizens in Manhattan had observed about the ant's eating dropped food's. I think it's a good thing because when the people drops food the city won't be polluted, but the bad thing is when they keep eating pavement foods the ants population will increase.
      • nicholasmj06
        nicholasmj06Friday, May 13, 2016 at 7:57 am
        • Cool GuyWednesday, April 27, 2016 at 4:31 pm
          Awesome bro
          • shopkincrazy101Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 1:22 pm
            Nice going with the photographs!#photomazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!
            • MewdiepieFriday, March 11, 2016 at 10:59 am
              • AWESOMEBOSSNESSMonday, February 15, 2016 at 12:27 pm
                Amazing that ants do that I thought they just like normal food not like McDonald's or kfc
                • LolWednesday, February 10, 2016 at 11:37 am
                  • SandpipeSunday, January 31, 2016 at 11:59 am
                    I think that this could solve the space junk problem if we send some ants up in to space and let them eat away at all the junk out there. jk
                    • Hi HoTuesday, November 24, 2015 at 4:42 pm
                      I wonder if they would eat KFC? 🍟🍗

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