One of the lectures given on “Ant Encounters” shed light not only on how ants interact, but how and why they evolved to work together in such an efficient way. Something that surprised me was that no instructions are given to worker ants by the queen. A third of the colony does nothing at all, while the rest of the colony works on foraging, patrolling, nest maintenance, and middle work. They know when to switch tasks based on their needs.
A colony’s biggest problems are conserving water (which comes from seeds/food) and competition with neighboring colonies. Because conservation of food is difficult, foraging is one of the most important tasks an ant can do. When one forager comes back with food, another goes out to get more. Because of evolution, some colonies are more likely than others to adjust to the rate of the returning forager. This was interesting to hear. How can such small creatures vary in rate of interactions? Apparently, ants work more like brains than they do humans. With different ecologies must come different networks.
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