TIME animals

Some NYC Ants Like to Eat Junk Food, Study Finds

The study may indicate which ants could help humans clean up trash

Some of the ants crawling around New York City have developed a taste for junk food, according to a new study.

The study in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which analyzed samples from more than 20 ant species in Manhattan, looked at levels of a type of carbon typically found in processed foods that humans eat.

Ants that lived on the sidewalk and other paved areas in the Big Apple tended to have carbon isotope levels more similar to humans, while ants that lived in parks had lower levels, the study found.

“Human foods clearly make up a significant portion of the diet in urban species,” said study author Clint Penick, a researcher at North Carolina State University, in a press release. “These are the ants eating our garbage, and this may explain why pavement ants are able to achieve such large populations in cities.”

The study may indicate which types of ants that could help humans clean up trash, Penick added.

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