Shhh, the Ants Are Talking: To see how the ants used this acoustic communication, the team removed the abdominal spike from some of the mature pupae in a nest. The researchers then disturbed the nest, spilling out larvae, pupae, and adult workers into an experimental arena. Normally, the adult ants rescue their nestmates in a specific order: mature pupae, immature pupae, and, finally, the larvae. In the experiments by Schönrogge and colleagues, the adult workers indeed rescued the unmuted mature pupae first. However, the adult ants completely ignored the muted ants. It was as if the mute mature pupae simply didn't exist.
"The sounds they make rescue them by signaling their social status," Schönrogge says.