Author archives: José Ramón Alonso

Building bridges

Building bridges

BiologyEthology

By José Ramón Alonso

Slime mold is an informal name given to several kinds of unrelated eukaryotic organisms that can live freely as single cells but when food is in short supply, many of these unicellular organisms will congregate to form multicellular structures that move together as a single body. Thus, the aggregation and joint movement require the coordination […]

Little waste collectors

Little waste collectors

Biology

By José Ramón Alonso

Ants are among the most diverse, abundant and ecologically significant organisms on earth. They have colonized almost every landmass on Earth and the only places lacking indigenous ants are Antarctica and a few remote or inhospitable islands. Ants thrive in most ecosystems and may form 15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass. Although their species richness […]

Defend your friends

Defend your friends

BiologyEthology

By José Ramón Alonso

Mutualistic interactions are ubiquitous phenomena occurring between many classes of organisms. The mutually beneficial relationship between ants and honeydew-producing mealybugs (hemipterans) is a very well-studied example. Mealybugs belong to the family Pseudococcidae and they are unarmored scale insects found in moist and warm climates. The ants collect and exploit the honeydew produced by the mealybugs […]

Flying tandems

Flying tandems

Biology

By José Ramón Alonso

Swarm robotics studies the coordination of many simple physical robots that act as a single multirobot system. The interactions between the individual robots and the interaction of the robots with the environment generate a collective behavior that is named swarm behavior. This new discipline moves from the artificial intelligence to the biological world and vice […]

Metacognition in nonhumans

Metacognition in nonhumans

EthologyNeuroscience

By José Ramón Alonso

Metacognition is «cognition about cognition», or «knowing about knowing». It comes from the root word «meta», meaning beyond, and the word «cognition» that includes all mental abilities and processes related to knowledge: attention, memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning, biological computation, problem-solving, decision making, comprehension and production of language, etc. Metacognition can take many forms; it […]

Earworms and chewing gum

Earworms and chewing gum

Psychology

By José Ramón Alonso

An «earworm» is a tune that arises seemingly spontaneously in the mind and becomes “stuck” in the head for hours or days. It is also called brainworm, musical imagery repetition, involuntary musical imagery, and stuck song syndrome. Sometimes we feel that it is driving us insane hampering a straight thinking and complicating concentration although usually […]

Sounds of seduction

Sounds of seduction

BiologyEthology

By José Ramón Alonso

Ants communicate through different mechanisms in order to regulate their social organization. The best known is through scented chemicals known as pheromones. These chemical messengers are received at the tips of the antennae and differences in concentration between the left one and the right one are used as an orientation vector. Ants use about ten […]

The ants’ toilet, please?

The ants’ toilet, please?

Biology

By José Ramón Alonso

Ant nests are complex three-dimensional spaces with particular places allocated for specific functions: egg-laying, care of the brood, food storage… In the chambers and tunnels, many insects live in very confined spaces and are thus especially vulnerable for infectious diseases. Feces are hazardous materials since theoretically at least they can foster bacteria, transmit diseases, and […]