ABOVE: The foragers among the red harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) are marked with an identifying color.

Dopamine may guide foraging behavior in ants living in the desert, according to a study published yesterday (September 26) in iScience

Researchers compared the gene-expression profiles of two groups of red harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus)—one that sent out foragers in dry weather and another that kept them in. They found differences in the activity of genes pertaining to neurotransmitter systems in the brain. 

On treating some nest-mates within a colony with dopamine, the researchers noticed that the neurotransmitter-treated ants foraged more often than their control-treated colony-mates. When dosed with a dopamine inhibitor, the ants behaved in the opposite fashion—they stayed home more. 

A foraging red harvester ant returns to the nest. 

D.A. Friedman et al., “The role of dopamine in the collective regulation of...

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