CyberDodo and Ants (1-1)
The collective intelligence of a colony is truly impressive, for example:
- Ants invented breeding millions of years before man, with numerous species using aphids which they keep, protect and regularly milk to get the food they need. In this regard, ants are the only ones, together with man, which own domestic animals!
- Equally, ants practised harvesting way before we did, by regularly going outside to collect a type of mushroom which they transport into the anthill on top of leaves!
- Let’s also talk about their construction genius; they are capable of adapting themselves to almost every type of constraint to livelihood on land, including deserts, which we already mentioned, and forests; they can go through rocky soil, moving soil, trees or even towns; they have established themselves practically everywhere. Well before us, they knew how to maintain a constant temperature in their habitat without having a negative impact on the planet!
- How do we talk about their collective intelligence without mentioning their capacity for communication and defence? If the colony is attacked, a few seconds is all they need to mobilise themselves - invaders are confronted by thousands of individuals ready to sacrifice themselves for the group
- A colony is a particularly well maintained and neat living space. Ants naturally produce a series of substances which help them fight against other insects, viruses or bacteria
- Ants have another major function: they rid the environment of dead animals. However, in order to avoid risking contamination of the colony, these cleaning tasks are carried out by the oldest workers who are quartered in specific areas of the anthill
- This collective intelligence also helps them, whenever necessary, to set up super colonies by gathering thousands of nests and hundreds of thousands of queens; these super colonies can then group together hundreds of millions of ants and offer them better chances for survival
Regarding millions and billions…
Scientists have come up with an impressive figure: if the weight of an ant is only a few milligrams, their collective number (millions of billions) makes the total weight of ants exceed that of man…
Something to think about!
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Most of our contemporaries would reply to this question: "Yes, bees!" - which are indeed a magnificent example of an organised society grouping a lot of individuals which are allocated various complementary tasks, but bees are not the only types.
If the criteria has to do with the numbers attained by social insects, the correct reply should be: "Ants…", as quite often their colonies consist of millions of members.
Another important argument in their favour is their extraordinary capacity to live in very different climates, such as deserts, which would be considered as openly hostile for many other species.
However, the idea of referring to bees is not outside of the context of "Formicidae", since, like wasps and ants, bees are also part of the hymenoptera order, which are cousins that have been profoundly changed by evolution over millions of years.
If we were to speak of their origins, scientists would say that their remote ancestor would be a type of wasp which lived a hundred million years ago, since they have conquered the planet, except for glacial or submerged zones.
The word ‘diversity’ may have been invented to describe them, since they present very significant morphological differences between species, the smallest measuring less than one millimetre in length and the biggest, more than 3 centimetres.
To make a comparison with man, if the smallest among us would be not more than a metre tall, the biggest would be 30 metres, the equivalent of a 10-storey building, meaning that it would be extremely difficult to find things to wear or eat.
Speaking of food, one of the major values of ant colonies is the existence of different "jobs", which enables them to share the activities necessary for the survival of the group, with the Queen in first place of course, she deserves to be mentioned in upper case, because she lays all the eggs and is therefore the Mommy to thousands and thousands of kids, what a responsibility!
If the Queen is fertile, it is because she has the excellent assistance of drones, which have the dual task of feeding her as well as the larvae, while other ants with impressive physical development are going to guarantee the security of the colony: the soldiers.