QR codes are just about everywhere these days. On print materials, on marketing flyers, on business cards, on product packaging, inside libraries, on magazines. You name it, you can probably put a QR code on it.
But how about on the backs of ants?
In Switzerland, researchers at the University of Lausanne have put QR codes on the backs of ants to help them track these little fellows and study their behavior.
The researchers put QR codes on the back of more than 100 ants in the lab and released them to their colony. The QR codes helped the researchers track the ants’ movements for 41 days, giving the scientists a better understanding of how the entire colony worked and what its social structure is.
The QR codes were read more than 2.4 billion times and gave the researchers data on 9.4 million interactions between the colony members.
So what did the researchers found out by analyzing these readings from the QR codes? They found that 40% of all worker ants tend exclusively to the queen ant and her babies. Around 30% looked for food while another 30% kept the colony clean.
The QR codes also told the researchers that an ant does not keep the same job for its entire lifetime. They first take care of the queen and her babies, and then go on to become cleaners and then food foragers.
The researchers noted that without these identifying QR codes, they will have no way of accurately examining the individuals ants and find out more about their interactions. It provides a great way to monitor the ants’ behavior, allowing them to observe the behavior of a single ant rather than the entire colony as a whole.
This is certainly a new way to use QR codes. It proves once and for all that QR codes are very flexible and very useful. You just need to plan very hard in determining how to use it properly!
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