Thursday, 2 July 2009

'Hey, You Must Be My Antie'

The discovery by a group of scientists that ants that originated in Argentina have formed a vast single mega-colony that has spread across the world shows that there is another species other than humans that has colonised this planet heavily.

The Argentine ants have colonised every major continent except Antarctica and have have been spread by humans unintentionally. However, Argentine ants can teach us a thing or two about social behaviour too. While ants from within the super-colonies stretching some 3,000km along the European coast may squabble amongst themselves when sub-colonies in Spain meet the main Europeans, if you take ants from the Mediterranean colony and mix them with those from Japan they behave as if they are family.

It seems the Spanish ones must be going through the 'Armada' phase of their history.

Ants are generally hugely territorial and aggressive to other species and these experiments reveal that the vast colonies on different continents must be related. They recognise each other through the chemical composition of their cuticles and they rub these together and have the ant equivalent of having a few beers rather than fighting.

No Cold War, No Terrorism in Ant World

It is incredibly surprising that ants of the same species could colonise the earth in this way - similar to humans. But it is far more surprising that they can behave as passively toward each other given their far less developed intelligence system. Humans, on the other hand, are far more territorial despite being of the same species. As we wake up today, the US army have launched the largest offensive since the Vietnam War in Helmand province in Afghanistan. Only now are the US Forces withdrawing from Iraq. Terrorists from our country can set off bombs in the Underground system and cause carnage. We could go on and on and as far back as we like - we are a barbaric species to one another.

We may be more sophisticated beasts with amazing intelligence but when it comes to relating to one another on a grand scale we are dumber than ants.

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