When out of their nest, workers of the longhorn crazy ant (Paratrechina longicornis) band together toward a common goal: to bring food back to the nest. But even when a few of these long-legged, silver-haired ants (of Ant-Man fame) team up to carry a large item—such as a wasp—they often lose their way home. That’s where a wandering ant comes in, according to a study published online today in Nature Communications. This wanderer from the same nest joins the group to steer it in the right direction—it pulls and others comply (as seen in the video above of ants carrying a Cheerio). But the new recruit eventually forgets the way home as well; perhaps the size and smell of the food impede navigation. That’s when another free-roaming ant comes to the band’s rescue and leads it toward the nest. Over time—and a handful of wandering ants—the group finds its way home.
(Video credit: O. Feinerman et. al, Nature Communications, 2015)