Ant colonies are incredibly complex, and at the same time, intensely cooperative, which is why they are often referred to as single 'superorganisms.'

The study by Thomas O'Shea-Wheller from the University of Bristol, UK, and colleagues, interested in the extent to which ants behave as a single entity, simulated different predator attacks on 30 migrating ant colonies.

To observe the ants' responses to predation at different locations in and near the nest, they removed ant scouting at
the colony periphery, and then separately, removed workers from the centre of the nest.

When scouts were removed from the periphery, the foraging 'arms' of the colony retracted back into the nest. However,
when ants were removed from within the centre of the nest itself, the whole colony fled, seeking asylum in a new location.

While the first of these scenarios could be seen as akin to burning your hand on a stove, the second is more of a 'house on fire' scare, researchers said.

Researchers said their results may draw parallels with the nervous systems of single organisms, in that they allow appropriate and location-dependent responses to damage.

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