frequently asked questions about ersatz, the scientific ant

Is Ersatz really an ant?

Yes. Ersatz is a black carpenter ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus).

Is Ersatz male or female?

We’re not sure. Ersatz’s behavior, poetry, and the occasional suggestive comment lead us to believe he’s male, and we refer to him as such. On the other hand, male carpenter ants typically only live for several weeks during mating season, whereas Ersatz claims to be several years old. We once asked him to explain this incongruity, but he said he needed to leave urgently on account of boredom.

From time to time when he’s had too many drops of aphid juice, we catch Ersatz stumbling around drunk, mumbling something about monasteries built deep into Norwegian Wood-

where male ants can go
after the Big Job’s done.

When later pressed on this point, Ersatz feigned ignorance and claimed he sometimes writes alternate lyrics to Beatles songs when drunk.

What makes Ersatz scientific?

In his own words:

it’s my style

Does Ersatz hold any academic credentials?

We have looked into this matter but have been unable to find a satisfactory basis for comparison of ant and human academic degrees. According to Ersatz, the Ant Institute of Technology (his institution of current affiliation) grants two-hundred-and-thirteen different types of diploma, none of which appear to resemble what we refer to as a bachelors, masters, or doctoral degree. Given Ersatz’s reluctance to talk about his academic past, we have been unable to worm out of him just what letters he is entitled to append to his name, or exactly what they might mean.

Does Ersatz have a last name?

Yes: Leibniz.

How does Ersatz write?

Being too small to lift a writing utensil, Ersatz can’t write. He communicates his poems in one of two ways. On some occasions, if his interpreter happens to be around when the muse strikes, Ersatz does an interpretive dance. The intimate and varied relationship Ersatz and his interpreter share allows the interpreter to interpret the interpretive dance and set it forth in English in the manner you read here.

Alternatively, Ersatz sometimes communicates his poems by leaving little crumb trails on the granite counter in the interpreter’s kitchen during the night. Since Ersatz is but one ant, he often recruits other members of the colony to help rearrange the crumbs into a legible form in a timely manner. In the morning, the interpreter ‘reads’ the resulting crumb-scribbles and translates them into English.

Both of these methods are, of course, fallible, and every now and then Ersatz will voice his frustration at what he feels is a particularly egregious offense against his natural verbal eloquence and wit.

Does Ersatz speak English?

Yes, though he prefers to communicate in his native tongue. He also speaks a broken Spanish, as evidenced by the fragments found on his interpreter’s counter now and then-

una hormiga que bailaba española
me enseñó una vez que todo lo que sé

Why does Ersatz call humans hunams?

Ersatz is a very distant relative of Fwiffo, the cowardly Spathi.

How can I communicate with ersatz?

Due to the obvious practical difficulties involved, Ersatz checks his email infrequently. Still, you can try to reach him at [email protected] (or post a comment below).



The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.