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What's That Ant?

Learn to observe and categorize ants based on common features in order to guess which ant your scientist collaborator is studying
  • Illustration by Kristin Reiber Harris
    What's That Ant?

Check out this two-player game inspired by “Guess Who?” and the real-world skills scientists use to categorize and identify different species and types of ants. Have fun!

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0 


What's That Ant? Game PDF

Download and print the game document from the Save & Share Menu and prepare the game as described.

Find a partner to play & have fun!

What's That Ant? Game


One way scientists explore is to look at a set of things and come up with ways to describe and group them with each other. This helps scientists to look for patterns, and to be curious about why some things are different from others or why other things are often the same.

Ants are very interesting for this because there are over 10,000 different ant species in the world! In this game, you get to put on your scientist hat to find ways to describe and group your ants and then use these features to guess the ant being studied by your partner before your partner guesses yours (or until you collaborate and both figure out each others’ ants).

Take a moment to discuss the ants with your partner and agree on notable features that differ between groups of ants. As you discuss, you may want to make up common names together, based on what you see. If you’d like some help with what to look for on your ants, use the figure below highlighting some of the features we had in mind:

Game Preparation

Print out the Ant Card sheets (ideally in color, otherwise add back colors with colored pencils or markers). Cut out each ant card (9 per sheet) and sort into the three piles (pink line, purple dots, and magnifying glass sets).

Two kids playing What’s That Ant? with a book dividing their game spaces. The ant-under-investigation can be seen propped up on the book.

Game Setup

  1. Each player gets one set (pink line or purple dots) and lays out their cards face up and only visible to themselves. Consider setting up a folder to separate your space from your opponent.
  2. If you haven’t already, take a moment to get familiar with common features shared by groups of ants and think about good questions for narrowing down the options to figure out your partner’s ant.
  3. Shuffle the magnifying glass set and each player draws an ant to be under their investigation—keep this secret from your partner!

Game Play

  1. Take turns asking a yes/no question about your opponent’s ant.
    Is your ant brown?
    Does your ant have hairs?
    Does your ant have a head shaped like a ball?
    Is your ant’s head huge compared to its body?
  2.  For each answer, flip over all cards that do not agree with their confirmed feature.
  3. Continue until only one ant remains and guess What’s That Ant by showing the card or reading the common name of the suspected ant.
  4. You win by being the first player to correctly guess your opponents’ ant!

Illustrations by Kristin Reiber Harris with inspiration from the Kronauer Laboratory at Rockefeller University, Alexander Wild, and Ant Wiki.

Gallery of Ants Featured in What's That Ant?

Keep in mind that these are just 12 of the over 10,000 species of ants that are known to us!
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