On this Australian island, ants survive by drinking urine

On this Australian island, ants survive by drinking urine


New research suggests that ants on Kangaroo Island in South Australia use vertebrate urine to extract nitrogen from it.

Three years ago, while camping on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, environmentalist Sophie Petit noticed something surprising. Near her tent, hundreds of ants were rushing to the very spot where she had urinated a few minutes earlier. The ants then returned to the same place during the following nights. As a researcher, she wondered why these insects were so obsessed with urine.

Nitrogen-poor soils
Attached to the University of South Australia at Mawson Lakes, the ecologist returned to the scene a year later with one of his colleagues. Here you will find sea lions, koalas, various species of birds and of course thousands of kangaroos. Here, the landscape is often very dry, lined with brush and sandy soil poor in nutrients, hence the importance of urine.

Besides water, the main chemical component of urine is urea, a nitrogen-containing compound. This element is essential for living beings, making it possible inter alia to form amino acids then used for the manufacture of proteins. The researchers therefore naturally evaluated the response of ants in its presence. They detail their work in the journal Austral Ecology.

Ants prefer urine to sugar water
For this experiment, they prepared three types of solutions. The former contained the concentration of urea found in human urine and kangaroo (2.5%). The seconds contained up to 10% urea. And finally, the last ones only contained sugar water, which all ants normally love.

These three types of solutions were then poured onto the sand. For 29 days, the two researchers observed and analyzed the behavior of ants (Camponotus terebrans).

They then discovered that the higher the urea concentration, the more insects there were. They also preferred kangaroo urine to sugar water. Sometimes ants even tunneled into the dry sand to try to find urine residue buried under the ground.

In light of these results, the two researchers are convinced that these Australian ants, which evolve in an environment very poor in nutrients, rush on the urine of vertebrates to obtain mainly water and nitrogen. If one day you are around, do not hesitate to do your business outside. The creator of “genetically modified” babies gets 3 years in prison