Lifestyle & Belief

Ants and termites help in the discovery of gold


Ants and termites may be able to dig up gold say researchers in Australia, possibly leading to new discoveries.


Chris Graythen

Sometime in the Fifth century BC, Greek historian Herodotus wrote:

"Here, in this desert, there live amid the sand great ants, in size somewhat less than dogs, but bigger than foxes. The Persian king has a number of them, which have been caught by the hunters in the land whereof we are speaking. Those ants make their dwellings under ground, and like the Greek ants, which they very much resemble in shape, throw up sand heaps as they burrow. Now the sand which they throw up is full of gold."

Most modern day observers believed that Herodotus was just telling tall tales and rumors about gold-digging ants.

Not so, say some Australian researchers.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's science agency, found that ants digging deep in the ground accumulate metals in their bodies and may be able to discover gold.

Head researcher Aaron Stewart said that testing ants and even termites could help to find future gold deposits.

"In some places we have shown that termites and ants can bridge the gap by bringing up evidence from five meters down," Stewart said, according to the Brisbane Times.

Ant and termite mounds might also offer similar help.

"When it builds its mound, it's collecting material from different places, collecting fine, silty clays from the surface and other building materials," said Stewart, according to Yahoo News.

"It's also excavating soil from underneath in which to house its nest. So it's really about how they go down and collect materials and put them in their nest, and to our advantage, those materials are what we're looking for."

It is believed that termites can burrow as deep as 100 feet into the earth.

Gold companies have begun working with the agency to understand the method.

Exploring for gold costs companies thousands, even millions of dollars and the new way of finding it could save them fortunes.