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Ants - Warfare and their similarity to Humans

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  • 20-11-2011 12:34am
    #1
    Administrators, Computer Games Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 32,185 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭


    I stumbled across a very interesting article about Ants and how they practice warfare(another supposedly uniquely human trait found in the animal kingdom) among eachother. Here's a snippet:
    Research conducted by Nigel Franks, now at the University of Bristol in England, and his colleagues has demonstrated that the organized violence practiced among army ants and marauders is consistent with Lanchester’s square law, one of the equations developed in World War I by engineer Frederick Lanchester to understand potential strategies and tactics of opposing forces. His math showed that when many fights occur simultaneously within an arena, greater numbers trump individual fighting power. Only when dangers become extreme do the larger marauder ants put themselves at risk—for example, workers of all sizes will rush an entomologist foolish enough to dig up their nest, with the majors inflicting the most savage bites.

    Still, just as Lanchester’s square law does not apply in all situations for warring humans, neither does it describe all the behaviors of warring ants. Slave-making ants offer a fascinating exception. Certain slave makers steal the brood of their target colony to raise as slaves in the slave maker nest. The slave makers’ tough armor, or exoskeleton, as it is termed, and daggerlike jaws give them superior fighting abilities. Yet they are greatly outnumbered by the ants in the colonies they raid for slaves. To avoid being massacred, some slave makers release a “propaganda” chemical that throws the raided colony into disarray and keeps its workers from ganging up on them. In so doing, as Franks and his then University of Bath graduate student Lucas Partridge have shown, they are following another Lanchester strategy that at times applies also for humans. This so-called linear law holds that when battles are waged as one-on-one engagements—which is what the propaganda substance allows—victory is assured for the superior fighters even when they are outnumbered. In fact, a colony besieged by slave makers will often allow the invaders to do this plundering without any fighting or killing.

    Among ants, a fighter’s value to its colony bears on the risks the ant takes: the more expendable it is, the more likely it is to end up in harm’s way. The guards lining marauder foraging trails, for instance, are usually elderly or maimed workers that often struggle to stay upright while lunging at intruders. As Deby Cassill of the University of South Florida reported in Naturwissenschaften in 2008, only older (months-old) fire ants engage in fights, whereas weeks-old workers run off and days-old individuals feign death by lying motionless when under attack. Viewed from the ant perspective, the human practice of conscripting healthy youngsters might seem senseless. But anthropologists have found some evidence that, at least in a few cultures, successful human warriors tend to have more offspring. A reproductive edge might make combat worth the personal risk for people in their prime—an advantage unattainable by ant workers, which do not reproduce.

    Click here for the full article.

    Its a pretty good read.

    I've always been fascinated by ants, the similarities between ant society and human society really is astounding. They wage war, farm and build cities.


    Heres a clip from a really fascinating documentary on ants I saw last year where they excavated a bona fide ant city. The colony was abandoned so no ants were harmed :)



    :eek:


Comments

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭Adam Khor


    I find ants to be fascinating creatures. I've read that one species in particular has soldiers that, when under attack (that is, when the colony is endangered), they cause their own bodies to explode. They die, but they shower their enemies with some sortof poison, killing many enemies at once. Basically, kamikaze ants :D

    There are also ants that kidnap the larvae of other ants and then raise them as slaves :D I have a book that details many of these behaviors somewhere...


  • Administrators, Computer Games Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 32,185 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭Mickeroo


    Yea I only recently heard about the kamikaze ants, here's a pic of one in action:

    Ant3.jpg


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 2,720 ✭✭✭Sid_Justice


    Eusociality in general is fascinating. The ants like bees and termites have a queen, the only one who lays eggs. Her daughters, her workers, provide all the other functions from house keeping to the warfare as described here.

    Practiced by the naked mole rat too, so not just insects (but confined only to a few species).

    Another doc I saw went on about a particularly aggressive species of ant, can't remember, red ant, fire ant, army ant or something. Farmer's couldn't leave animals on a leash unattended, once the ants got them and they couldn't run off , they'd be stung to bits by them.


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭Adam Khor


    Eusociality in general is fascinating. The ants like bees and termites have a queen, the only one who lays eggs. Her daughters, her workers, provide all the other functions from house keeping to the warfare as described here.

    Practiced by the naked mole rat too, so not just insects (but confined only to a few species).

    Another doc I saw went on about a particularly aggressive species of ant, can't remember, red ant, fire ant, army ant or something. Farmer's couldn't leave animals on a leash unattended, once the ants got them and they couldn't run off , they'd be stung to bits by them.

    That sounds like the African driver ant or siafu, often said to be the only ant that actually does prey on humans (I remember reading about babies and a man with a broken leg- who couldn´t run away- being devoured). Usually they are too slow to catch a human but, if you can´t move...

    There's, I believe, another species of mole rat besides the naked one that also lives in an eusocial system.


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