A psychologist has developed a mirror test to understand the recognition ability of organisms widely used to test the self-awareness capabilities of many insects, ants, birds, and animals.
Can Ants Recognize Themselves in Mirrors? Ants can recognize themselves in mirrors, but mainly they consider images to be their fellows and feel like they are seeing another ant. Changes in motion, movement of the head, shaking of antennae, grooming of bodies, and touching glass are commonly observed behaviors when they come in front of a mirror.
Observing the organisms when exposed to reflecting glass is quite engaging as it brings incredible changes in their behavior, resulting in hysterical or amusing acts.
How do ants recognize themselves in mirrors?
Ants are not considered intelligent organisms because they lack analytic reasoning and behave like a robot that does not take rest and remain busy by continuously doing their work.
Their ability to recognize themselves was observed by keeping a few sample insects in front of the mirror where they could see themselves.
It is interesting to observe their behavior when their image appears in the mirror. Every species behaves differently as some begin to get closer to the glass while a few do not bother it.
In addition, most of them do not perceive it as an image and remain busy with their activities.
They consider images to be their fellows as they have never seen themselves in the mirror. However, these insects only know about the appearance of nest mates and recognize them.
Accordingly, most of them cannot identify themselves and are not diverted from their tasks after seeing an image closely. It seems no wonder to them as they consider it a fellow.
In contrast, you can also observe them seeing their image and grooming themselves in front of the glass or when kept over the surface reflecting light.
What happens when ants recognize themselves in mirrors?
Some of these can recognize themselves in the mirrors as they have bigger eyes and multiple ommatidia to process an image.
Shaking of antennae
Ants use antennae to detect chemicals and odors as they have multiple receptors or sensing organs to differentiate the substances according to their molecular structures.
It is observed by scientists that these insects begin to shake their antennae when placed in front of the reflecting glass as they are considering it a barrier or trying to find a way through it.
They are trying to send a signal to their image by shaking their bent antennae if they consider an image to be another ant.
Changes in motion
Changes in the speed of motion and movement patterns are observed when a glass is placed in front of their bodies. They begin to move slower and randomly.
The position of the glass also affects their behavior as they do not react by seeing a front image, but a feeling of fear is obvious when placed over the mirror.
Their speed gets reduced when they see reflecting light from it, and they fear walking over another ant when they see an image below their feet.
Touch and approach mirror
It is one of the primary instincts to move closer to another ant in front of them to talk or guide her for movement or the next foraging plan.
Accordingly, they can move forward to get closer to their image for communication purposes. They try to approach the glass surface and even re-approach it many times during the movement.
They can touch the surface sometimes with their antennae or head while trying to figure out the object as a barrier. They change movement direction after recognizing it to be an obstacle.
Movement of the head
These insects can get confused after seeing themselves in the mirrors and begin to move their head in different directions. You can find them moving heads back and forth.
Moreover, they rarely get exposed to these materials because their movements are restricted to ground surfaces, walls, and water pipes that are not made of glass.
They avoid slippery glass surfaces due to unbalanced movement and the risk of falling and choose rough surfaces to walk and climb.
Accordingly, it feels like they are trying to resolve the matter and overcome confusion by assessing the visual changes in their environment.
Clean legs and antennae
Insects are not supposed to behave like humans, who begin to fix the flaws in their hair or makeup after finding a mirror in front of them.
However, it can be astonishing for you to know some of these try to groom themselves when they find a particle of food attached to their head or other body parts.
They are found to be cleaning their legs and even antennae in front of the mirror, showing their ability to recognize.
In addition, some non-foraging workers keep the queen’s and larvae’s bodies clean by licking their legs and antennae. So, these grooming insects can be the nursing caste of the colony.
Do ants have a sense of self-awareness?
Self-awareness means the ability to recognize the reflection and differentiate oneself from others. These insects are found to be making efforts to remove stains marked by researchers.
Scientists observed that they behaved normally when placed near the mirror, but their behavior changed when their body parts were marked with ink.
The ability of self-awareness relies on exposure to a reflective glass because it is not possible to identify an image unless it has been seen before it.
Most commonly, ants are not exposed to reflective surfaces like glass in their lives, so they can’t identify themselves when seeing in the mirror.
However, they have seen their fellows in front of them and use visual and chemical information to recognize their nest mates. Accordingly, they find an image to be their fellow in front of them.
Moreover, those having small eyes, like pharaoh ants, cannot observe anything closer clearly, so this image does not affect their activities.
In contrast, a few species have bigger eyes with multiple optical units that can look at their image and take some time to recognize themselves.
Can all insects pass the mirror test?
Many people test the self-recognizing capabilities of insects through mirror tests by placing them in front of mirror, allowing light rays to reflect.
Larger animals, including elephants, whales, dolphins, and even birds like pigeons, can see their reflection in the glass, but dogs have failed the test.
However, most insects are not capable of passing the test except ants because they lack cognitive abilities, but they can be trained with continuous exposure.
Ants are known to recognize their owner, which means they can remember the faces when they see them multiple times in a day.
They can take some time to configure the situation and observe the image to reach a conclusion. Therefore, you cannot consider that all insects have a sense of self-awareness.