1902 Encyclopedia > Ant > Sense of Vision, Smell, etc. Communication and Language.

(Part 6)


(B) Familiar Ants (Formica) (cont.)

Sense of Vision, Smell, etc. Communication and Language.

Apart from the possession of high instincts, however, we find ants, in common with many other insects, to be possessed of very perfect senses. In addition to the large compound eyes with which most insects are provided, they posses simple organs of vision. The sense of smell also appears to be represented in the ants and insects generally, but the seat of this sense has not been well or satisfactorily determined. Judging from analogy, however, the olfactory apparatus has been supposed to reside in the basal joints of the feelers or antennae. Ants have been long observed to follow accurately the track of their companions. Bonnet conducted that they were enabled to follow up this line of march by their scent, and in, proof of this he repeatedly drew his finger at various parts across the line of march. The ants, on arriving at the interrupted spots, seemed to lose scent, and directed their steps in an irregular and hesitating manner, but having once crossed the interrupted space of the finger track, they resumed their journey once more in a regular manner along the line of march. Latreille, with the view of ascertaining if the sense of smell resided in the antennae, cut off these organs in several ants, when he found that they appeared to lose their way, and to be incapable of directing their further steps. It may, however, on obvious grounds be doubted whether this experiment may be deemed at all satisfactory or conclusive on the point. In this experiment it was noticed that the neighbouring ants appeared to observe the distress of their mutilated companions, and they seemed to stanch the wounds of the sufferers by an application of the organs of the mouth to the wounded surface.

The antennae in insects are certainly the organs of touch, but in ants these organs appear to subserve some undetermined function, in that through their agency communication may be made from one ant to the other. M. Huber was so strongly impressed with this latter fact, that he applied the term langage antennal to the intercourse which he supposed took place between ants through the media of the antennae. For example, by each ant striking its head against its neighbour, and by the transmission of this impulse, the whole ant-community appeared to be warned of danger, and in other ways, but chiefly through the antennae, the sense of danger appears to be appreciated by each member of the colony.

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