RE: ants again

From: Smigrodzki, Rafal (SmigrodzkiR@MSX.UPMC.EDU)
Date: Tue Oct 23 2001 - 11:02:35 MDT

Emlyn wrote:

The colony would have a lifespan, or generation time, anyway, on the order
of large animals, not on the order of non-colony insect generation times.
How do they compete with insects which evolve far more quickly? Does the
colony organisation put them out of direct competition with other insects,
and into the same kind of space as larger animals???

### You are right - the colony is an organism, the queen is like an ovum
which can directly generate all somatic cells (the individual ants) and the
germline cells - drones (spermmatozoa) and daughter queens. The generation
span is equivalent to the average interval between the establishment of the
mother colony and its daughter colonies. And indeed, the ant colony can
perform feats impossible for individual insects, allowing it to compete not
so much by very quick adaptation but by the coordinated use of superior
force, although the ecological niches are still not the same as for larger

We are evolving towards more complex societies and one day a sentient
equivalent of an anthill may be formed by individuals willing to forgo
individual reproduction for the benefits of specialization, efficiency and
extreme social stability. The reason why ants don't cheat on their nestmates
(except if subverted by outside influences) is because any defection from
the social rules kills their genes by reducing the fitness of the colony. If
the same model developed in a human society, it could be very efficient at
gathering and processing information and could sweep aside simpler organisms
just like what happened when ants developed eusociality and multiplied to
make up a major fraction of insect biomass in some environments.

By the way, there are mammalian examples of similar reproductive
specialization is some species of mole-rats.


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