Self-medicating ants

Evolution Happens

Whether swallowing Excedrin® for a headache or sipping a cocktail to take the edge off, you’ve likely self-medicated more than once in your life. Similar to written language and advanced tool use, ingesting an otherwise harmful substance for the purposes of curing what ails you is a behavior usually considered to be uniquely human. But it turns out ants can self-medicate, too. A recent study showed that common black ants changed their diets when they were sick—eating more food supplemented with a medicinal substance—as compared to ants with no infection.

1024px-Grauschwarze_Sklavenameise_Formica_fusca_02_(MK) The common European black ant, Formica fusca, can alter its behavior to self-medicate when it’s sick.
Photo by Mathias Krumbholz via Wikimedia Commons

You may have heard stories of elephants getting drunk by eating fermented fruit or of dolphins getting high off pufferfish toxin – but as much as people might like these stories to be true, they’re actually driven more by myth than…

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Sea slugs in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Evolution Happens

I recently returned from Panama where I helped teach a workshop on the taxonomy & biology of sea slugs at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Bocas del Toro research station. Getting back into the ocean after being stuck at a computer desk or lab bench for 3 years inspired me to bring this blog out of hibernation.

Students from 7 countries gathered at the STRI research station in Bocas del Toro, Panama for a 2-week workshop on the taxonomy and biology of sea slugs. Students from 7 countries gathered at the STRI research station in Bocas del Toro, Panama for a 2-week workshop on the taxonomy and biology of sea slugs.

The workshop was organized by my post-doc advisor at Cal State LA, Patrick Krug, and Cal Poly Pomona professor Ángel Valdés. Participants included 5 students from these two labs in Southern California, plus enthusiastic undergraduate and grad students from Florida, Maryland, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Colombia, India, and Brazil – only 13 students but they represented 7 different countries!

Lectures and lab activities relating to the taxonomy…

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