Ants Tell a Secret About Global Warming


Ants, at most, have long been traditionally rumored to be considered a nuisance by many. These creatures are famously known for making uninvited appearances into many homes during the warm weather seasons when they seem to appear outdoors the most. Ants have an invariable way of somehow penetrating even the most tightly sealed picnic baskets only to jump out in surprise at the expense of the person who reaches in first to partake in a sandwich. Although some may frown at the thought of seeing ants crawl around looking for food, pet ants are still loved by many who enjoy the entertainment of watching these busy little insects maneuver through the maze of an ant farm. On the other hand, observing ants within a setting similar to that of the insect’s natural habitat may give a lot of information in the way of how ants utilize the natural ability to turn digested food into a byproduct that could be of great interest to those concerned with global warming.

Renowned for being one of the main contributing factors to global warming is the greenhouse gas effect derived from the burning of fossil fuels, with corn being one of those fossil components. Corn has been widely used in the manufacturing industry to produce the fuel that is need to operate vehicles and various other types of machinery. Airplanes, trucks, buses, ships, and trains primarily use these fuels. Since the necessity to consistently operate machinery that burns fossil fuel is imperative to the economy, this may raise the question of how to minimize the effects on the atmosphere while still achieving the maximum benefit for society as a whole. Scientists have observed the South American leafcutter ant and its ability to digest large complex components. The leafcutter ants are more commonly found mitigating through the rain forests of South America although there have been reports of colonies located in the southern regions of the United States and in Mexico. One of the remarkable features about the leafcutter ant that may be the secret to combating the issues with global warming is the ant’s natural ability to create a chemical enzyme that is used to break down leaves into simple sugars for digestion purposes. When the leafcutter ant eats leaves, it turns it into a fungus composed of a special enzyme. In a nutshell, the South American leafcutter ant could tell scientists a thing or two about how to master the breaking down of fossil fuels that could help counteract the adverse effects of global warming.

Corn is one of the primary fossil fuels to produce ethanol fuel. The cob is the main portion of corn that is broken down to make biofuel since the other portions are too complicated to break down. It has been speculated that the byproduct from burning the cob portion of the corn to produce ethanol fuel is what may have eventually led to the cause of global warming. Scientists theorize that if it were possible to use the other portions of the corn-stalk for biofuel production by using the same enzyme the South American leafcutter ant uses to break down complex foods, this may be the answer to at least eliminating some of the gases that are toxic to the atmosphere. After several tests were performed to test this theory, scientists believe they may have the secret to saving the environment. As for the South American leafcutter ant, it is possible that these insects really do have a lot to tell and show humans about how to break down a complex situation such as with the issue of global warming.

By Stephanie Tapley

Union of Concerned Scientists

Rainforest Alliance

Mother Nature Network

One Response to "Ants Tell a Secret About Global Warming"

  1. pedro   March 31, 2014 at 7:38 am

    Stephanie is having an off day I think. Corn may be a tiny component of fossil fuels but she is talking about fresh corn plants used to produce ethanol. Not fossil fuels at all. The writing style is odd and needlessly long winded as well which contributes to the confusion. It looks as if she tried to write this without first learning anything about the topic.

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