Battles among Ants Resemble Human Warfare

Discussion in 'Members Corner' started by Vyom, Jan 8, 2012.

  1. Vyom

    Vyom Seeker Elite Member

    Dec 23, 2009
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    The raging combatants form a blur on all sides. the scale of the violence is almost incomprehensible, the battle stretching beyond my field of view. Tens of thousands sweep ahead with a suicidal single-mindedness. Utterly devoted to duty, the fighters never retreat from a confrontation—even in the face of certain death. The engagements are brief and brutal. Suddenly, three foot soldiers grab an enemy and hold it in place until one of the bigger warriors advances and cleaves the captive’s body, leaving it smashed and oozing.
    I back off with my camera, gasping in the humid air of the Malaysian rain forest, and remind myself that the rivals are ants, not humans. I have spent months documenting such deaths through a field camera that I use as a microscope, yet I still find it easy to forget that I am watching tiny insects—in this case, a species known as Pheidologeton diversus, the marauder ant.

    Scientists have long known that certain kinds of ants (and termites) form tight-knit societies with members numbering in the millions and that these insects engage in complex behaviors. Such practices include traffic management, public health efforts, crop domestication and, perhaps most intriguingly, warfare: the concentrated engagement of group against group in which both sides risk wholesale destruction. Indeed, in these respects and others, we modern humans more closely resemble ants than our closest living relatives, the apes, which live in far smaller societies. Only recently, however, have researchers begun to appreciate just how closely the war strategies of ants mirror our own. It turns out that for ants, as for humans, warfare involves an astonishing array of tactical choices about methods of attack and strategic decisions about when or where to wage war.

    Shock and Awe

    Remarkably, these similarities in warfare exist despite sharp differences between ants and humans in both biology and societal structure. Ant colonies consist mostly of sterile females that function as workers or soldiers, occasionally a few short-lived males that serve as drones, and one or more fertile queens. Members operate without a power hierarchy or permanent leader. Although queens are the center of colony life because they reproduce, they do not lead troops or organize labor. Rather colonies are decentralized, with workers that individually know little making combat decisions that nonetheless prove effective at the group level without oversight—a process called swarm intelligence. But although ants and humans have divergent lifestyles, they fight their foes for many of the same economic reasons, including access to dwelling spaces, territory, food and even labor—certain ant species kidnap competitors to serve as slaves.

    The tactics ants use in war depend on what is at stake. Some ants succeed in battle by being on the constant offensive, calling to mind Chinese military general Sun Tzu’s assertion in his sixth-century b.c. book The Art of War that “rapidity is the essence of war.” Among army ants, species of which inhabit warm regions around the world, and a few other groups, such as Asia’s marauder ant, hundreds or even millions of individuals proceed blindly in a tight phalanx, attacking prey and enemies as they come across them. In Ghana I witnessed a seething carpet of workers of the army ant species Dorylus nigricans searching together across an area 100 feet wide. These African army ants—which, in species such as D. nigricans that move in broad swathes, are called driver ants—slice flesh with bladelike jaws and can make short work of victims thousands of times their size. Although vertebrate creatures can usually outrun ants, in Gabon I once saw an antelope, caught in a snare, eaten alive by a colony of driver ants. Both army ants and marauder ants will drive rival ants from food—the sheer number of troops is sufficient to overrun any rivals and control their food supply thereafter. But army ants almost always hunt en masse with a more malicious aim, storming other ant societies to seize the colony’s larvae and pupae as food.

    Read More: Battles among Ants Resemble Human Warfare: Scientific American
    W.G.Ewald likes this.
  3. tiranga

    tiranga Tihar Jail Banned

    Jan 8, 2012
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    Moral - Ants used to be monkeys
  4. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

    Sep 28, 2011
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    North Carolina, USA
    Ants are eusocial, meaning for one thing that individuals cannot survive outside the group. The comparison of ant and human warfare is superficial. Scientific American used to be a good publication.

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