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Creature column

The red harvester ant

Harvester ants live in desert grasslands and eat seeds. Colonies manage water stress by regulating foraging using olfactory interactions between outgoing and returning foragers. A long-term study in New Mexico shows how this collective behavior is evolving in drought conditions.

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Fig. 1

Dennak Murphy

Fig. 2: Annual rainfall, number of colonies that were founded and number that died, and the total number of colonies.


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Many thanks to all of the students and collaborators who have contributed so much to the harvester ant study. It was not possible in a brief essay to review the related work of many other researchers; the work described here contributes to a collective effort to understand the behavior, ecology and evolution of ants.

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Correspondence to Deborah M. Gordon.

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Gordon, D.M. The red harvester ant. Nat Methods 19, 1324–1325 (2022).

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