Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Adventures Among Ants

A Global Sarafi with a Cast of Trillions

Mark Moffett studied under E.O. Wilson, who described ant societies as "civilizations in the dirt." This book, printed on coated stock and illustrated throughout with wonderful close-ups of ants, is a justification of that term.

The focus is on six different kinds of ants: marauder, weaver, leafcutter, Amazon, Argentine, and African army.

A few interesting details:

The global biomass of ants equals that of human beings.

Ants are self-organizing. They have no leaders, yet somehow accomplish feats rivalled only by humans.

Some species build roadways. Others herd insects and create underground gardens.

Some are arboreal, constructing shelters in trees out of leaves.

Some raid the nests of other ant species and carry home the pupae, which become willing "slaves" of their kidnappers.

Some are a suicide bombers, blowing themselves up and spraying out a toxic glue that immobilizes foes.

Some can remain underwater for several hours, and others when dislodged from a tree can control the direction of their fall and glide back to the tree.

Argentine Ant

This is an introduced species that doesn't sting and is too small to bite humans. Yet somehow it has developed the ability to form "supercolonies," which consist of widely distributed nests.

One of them has taken over most of California. Thus an Argentine ant from LA can be dropped among other Argentine ants in San Francisco, and not be torn to pieces. It is accepted as a sister.

The largest such colony to date is one that stretches from Italy to Spain.

The only ant which so far has been able to resist the Argentine ant is the fire ant, which originates from the same area of Argentina.


Adventures Among Ants website
Mark Moffett's website
Great ant photos by Alex Wild