Research

The biology of social insects like wasps, honeybees and ants are fascinating. They have inhabited Earth for a significantly longer period than humans and often display a social organization that rivals that of humans. Their organization and the array of methods by which they communicate facilitate efficient and cohesive action, helping them adapt to a changing environment. We seek to understand how complex interactions between social insects and their environment help them survive and evolve, and what lessons we can take from their ecological success. Currently we are involved in the first systematic study of the Indian black ant Diacamma indicum. Using this model system, we observe and analyze the nature of signals used by social insects, their display and perception. We explore why social insects such as ants take the risk and bear the cost of relocation, especially in the face of challenging environmental conditions such as rising temperatures and monsoon. We use behavioral observations, techniques, hypothesis driven experiments and modeling as tools to unravel these mysteries of nature. In the process, we learn from these small insects about the importance of social living - lessons which may help us adapt and survive in a changing world.

Tandem Run (TR)



An informed individual leads a colony member from one location to another while maintaining frequent physical contact throughout the process. This enables transfer of information regarding the location of destination from the leader to the follower.

Initiation of Tandem Run




A jerky movement performed by tandem leaders which may include biting, pulling of the antenna, leg or body of a colony member, preceding a tandem run.

Self grooming




Ants clean various parts of their body like head, antennae, appendages, thorax, mouthparts etc. by themselves. Mouthparts and appendages are mainly used as tools for this process.

Allogrooming




Grooming of one ant by one or more nestmate(s).

Antennal boxing (AB)




Two non-nestmates showing aggression, where they face each other and repeatedly beat each others head with antenna in quick succession.

Chase (CH)




Two non-nestmates showing aggression, where one ant chases the other till the latter runs away.

Immobilization (IM)




One or more nestmates showing agression to a non-nestmate, where the non-nestmate gets bitten, and is simultaneously dragged or held down.

Defence against brood theft




An ant of the victim colony (blank-golden-golden or -XX) tries to stop a thief ant (blue-orange-blank or BO-) from stealing a pupae by trying to immobilize the ant.

Successful brood theft




A thief ant (green-blue-blue or GBB) attempts and successfully steals a pupa from a different colony (all individuals are marked with golden), and takes the stolen item back to its own colony.



Ant Lab | IISER-Kolkata | Updated: June 2020