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Science File | IN BRIEF

Unique Scent on Ants Provides Whiff of Safety

May 03, 2003|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A chemical cocktail on ants' bodies tells other worker ants whether to go out foraging for food, according to researchers from Stanford University. Workers of the red harvester ant, which live in the desert, only go out foraging if other workers have safely returned from a preliminary patrol outside the nest.

The Stanford researchers reported in Thursday's issue of Nature that exposure to sunlight alters the normal proportions of hydrocarbons on the ants' cuticles, creating a unique scent that tells the workers it is safe to go outside.

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