The Ants Go Marching One by One…But Do Humans?

Cecilia Santostefano

The fruit fly is one of the most well-known model organisms; it has been behind a vast amount of scientific research for over a century. Recently, though, another insect has intrigued scientists when it comes to answering the question of how human societies are organized. In a world where studying the brain and the complex organization of society is challenging, model species, like Dr. Kronauer’s raider ants, provide important insight.

Dr. Daniel Kronauer has been studying the biology, brain, genetics, and behavior or clonal raider ants out of his lab in Manhattan.[1] By manipulating his ant colony, Dr. Kronauer is studying its overall social system.[2] He explains, “by studying the neuromodulators that make ants so sensitive to their social environment, we could learn something fundamental about autism and depression along the way” because with such cerebral research, insights into human disease may be revealed.[3]

Dr. Kronauer has already observed similarities between his ant colony and human society. He has noted ants have inotocin, which is the equivalent of oxytocin, which triggers a caregiving response in humans and tells ants to leave the nest and find food for their young.[4] He has also observed that the ants that ignore the colony’s synchronized schedule and community cues “pay” for their behavior.[5] Dr. Kronauer’s research continues; he is still flipping over rocks “just to see what’s crawling around underneath.”[6]


[1] Natalie Angier, Gene Modified Ants Shed Light on How Societies Are Organized, NY Times, (Jan. 23, 2017),

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.