In the old days in the Old South, rich plantation owners had teams of slaves to do the work for them. It turns out that ants are farmers too AND they also have slaves! And just like people who purchased strong humans, slavemaker ants select the strong over the weak when seeking new servants, which is why they have been observed attacking larger, better defended colonies over smaller, weaker ones.
Zombies are now showing up in movies and books, but these didn’t originate in Haiti: A 48-million-year-old fossilized leaf gives us the oldest known evidence of parasites taking control of their hosts to turn them into zombies.
Researcher David P Hughes, who studies parasites that can take over the minds of their hosts, says, “This leaf shows clear signs of one well documented form of zombie-parasite, a fungus which infects ants and then manipulates their behavior.”
Insects are amazing, but sometimes they’re annoying (and even dangerous): First it was bedbugs, now it’s fire ants.
Ants can be formidable. Fire ants (they got the name “fire” because they sting) used to be found outdoors in warm climates, but now they’ve moved to the city. Once they’re in the city, they form massive supercolonies with thousands of queens and millions of workers. One researcher found a supercolony as long as a city block. City ants are also more aggressive and more likely to swarm.
than our politicians – Humans aren’t always rational, but ants almost always are. Maybe we have something to learn from them. If we go extinct, insects may end up being the next dominant species here on earth.
This is not the case of humans being “stupider” than ants. Humans and animals simply often make irrational choices when faced with very challenging decisions. Researcher Stephen Pratt says, “This paradoxical outcome is based on apparent constraint: most individual ants know of only a single option, and the colony’s collective choice self-organizes from interactions among many poorly-informed ants.”