"Wilson knows that we underestimate ant societies at our – and the planet's – peril. The manifold ant species, evolved over 100 million years, represents nearly two thirds of the world's entire insect biomass. "An individual ant has a brain one millionth the size of our brain, but still they are capable of quite complicated behaviour," Wilson suggests and goes on to explain how "many ant species are capable of learning a maze about half as fast as a rat." Or how "they can retain five locations where they can get food, and they can recall how to get there, and retain what time of day the food is offered if it comes regularly." In addition to that, of course, there is such a thing as the mind of the colony, which has been utilised by computer designers and brain scientists, at least as a metaphor. Each ant nest has a distributed intelligence that fits together through complex interactions to become a communal will. "If you have a group of ants that are foraging," Wilson says, "that group has, in its communal mind, a pretty clear idea of every square inch of the terrain around the nest. Then there is a lot of experience in the colony among ants who only nurse larvae, or who only build the nest, or who only manage disposal of the dead. If you put all that together and grant that ants can communicate knowledge very quickly with pheromones [their complex hormonal language of scent] then what you've got is a super organism, an impressive community…"
#ants are #awesome
Biology in Science Fiction originally shared this post:
Biologist EO Wilson's novel Anthill lets you get inside the mind (or "mind") of ants:
"The central section is an extraordinary act of what you might call species empathy, of the biologist imagining exactly what it is like to be an ant. Wilson invokes the poet Homer in his introduction, suggesting that ant "histories are epics that unfold on picnic grounds", in which "ants are a metaphor for us, and we for them." By concentrating on the struggles of the ant colony in this way, he makes the ecosystem virtually a character in the book, to which the ants give body and life."
How leading biologist EO Wilson turned his passion for ants into a best-selling novel