Mammals are limited by the availability of salt, and now researchers have shown that ants are too. In experiments in North, Central and South America, ecologists have shown that plant-eating and omnivorous ants living more than 60 miles inland are more interested in salt than sugar, with the preference greater the farther they live from the coast. Carnivorous ants show no such preference.
- “Ants will always go for the sugar because they need sugar to provide the basic energy for life and for their activity, but when you see ants spending increasing amounts of time or employing increasingly large numbers of individuals foraging for salt, it suggests that salt is a resource that is limiting to them. Their ability to be competitive and maintain themselves in different environments could be limited by a resource like salt.” ~ Steve Yanoviak, co-author.
The researchers suggest that what holds true for ants may well be true of all insects and even microbes – pointing to a role for salt, or sodium chloride, in the ecosystem that has not been recognized before.