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Ants from Space

While preparing for a soil exploration for a geotechnical assessment in the Spanish Springs Valley (north of Sparks in Washoe County), I noticed an unusual pattern in the Google Earth imagery.

As seen in the image below, roughly every 50 feet there is a clearing between the sage brush.

At many of these clearings, it appears a small lighter-colored dot may be located at the center of it. 

Sure enough, after visiting the site, we found these dots are clearings around ant hills.

This is in an area where there are layers of medium to coarse sand at depths which are not blown away in the ant hills (barely visible) and the ants presumably remove or inhibit adjacent vegetation.

So, it seems ants are leaving evidence that can be seen from space. Maybe messages in Morse code? Or just binary?

- Jonathan Pease

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