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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Animal Update

Air Date: Week of January 12, 2001

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Transcript

VILLIGER: What's an ant to do when its nest is threatened by flood? If you're a Cataulacus muticus ant living in Malaysia, you'd better have a contingency plan, because you make your home in the hollow nodes of giant bamboo plants deep in the rainforest. These ants build only one colony in a lifetime, so holding back the frequent deluges is a matter of life and death. Plan A: Batten down the hatches by blocking the doorway with your head. If this collective sandbag technique doesn't hold back the waters, move on to Plan B: Start drinking. Hundreds of ants fill up on the unwanted water seeping in their colony and head outside to excrete it away from the nest. Scientists dub this behavior "communal peeing." The ants keep at it in a kind of reverse bucket brigade until the waters recede and their home is dry. That's this week's animal update. I'm Maggie Villiger.

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