'Tis the season of runny noses, elbow coughs, and mind-boggling fever dreams. (Mary Poppins is in Aquaman? Nice one, influenza.) Flu season is getting into full swing, and it will divide mankind into two factions yet again. There are the people who will tough it out, go to work, and discreetly vomit into their trashcan when necessary, and then there are people who will bury themselves under an avalanche of duvets and ride the NyQuil dragon at the merest sign of sniffles.
And if you're wondering which one is the correct approach to dealing with sickness, you can always rely on that most famous mantra: WWAD. That is, "What would ants do?"
Research from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland has found that ants are quite the model sick citizens, staying away from their co-workers to prevent illness from spreading through the colony. Tracking several colonies of black garden ants, the researchers infected one colony's foragers (the guys who ruin picnics) with a deadly fungal spore. Through hyper-sophisticated tracking technology / supermarket bar codes, the study was able to follow the infected ants. Instead of barging back into the nest like tiny Typhoid Marys, they mostly quarantined themselves outside, thereby minimizing contact with the more vulnerable indoor workers, or more importantly, the queen.
But they're not the only ones who took precautions. With the risk of an epidemic, nurse ants also moved the young ones deeper into the colony. Even the uninfected outdoor ants stayed outside more during the health scare, though the study wasn't sure if that was because they were out late helping the sick ants or just didn't want to risk it -- that most classic of work excuses.
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