Researchers have found that ants and termites could help us to find the hidden treasures such as gold in the Earth.
This research has been conducted by CSIRO and published online in the journals PLoS ONE and Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment, Analysis.
Researchers have worked on a test site in the West Australian goldfields termite mounds and found high concentrations of gold that could represent larger deposit underneath.
“We’re using insects to help find new gold and other mineral deposits. These resources are becoming increasingly hard to find because much of the Australian landscape is covered by a layer of eroded material that masks what’s going on deeper underground,” Dr Aaron Stewart, CSIRO entomologist said.
Researchers found that the termites and ants snug the places by digging in the material, where gold traces were found underlying and bring the traces to the surface.
“The insects bring up small particles that contain gold from the deposit’s fingerprint, or halo, and effectively stockpile it in their mounds,” Dr Stewart said.
“Our recent research has shown that small ant and termite mounds that may not look like much on the surface, are just as valuable in finding gold as the large African mounds are that stand several metres tall.”
Dr Stewart also discovered that the insects also carry metals in their bodies.
“We’ve found that metals accumulate in excretory systems of termites,” he said.
“Although the insects may not concentrate metals in their bodies, they actively rid their bodies of excess metals. This process shows up as little stones, much like kidney stones in people. This finding is important because these excretions are a driving force in redistribution of metals near the surface.”
Researchers are of the opinion that insects could be the inexpensive and environmentally friendly way of exploring the mineral deposits.
Stewart, A., Anand, R., & Balkau, J. (2012). Source of anomalous gold concentrations in termite nests, Moolart Well, Western Australia: implications for exploration Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment, Analysis, 12 (4), 327-337 DOI: 10.1144/geochem2012-126