Wednesday, 1 July 2009

"Oops there goes another rubber tree plant"

Mankind has evolved in such a way that we are the dominant spices that has molded the planet to meet our needs. We 'Master and Lord' Divine over land, water and air, we have changed the appearance of earth, cleared ancient forests, killed off the Mammoth, tamed and domesticated the dog and cat, not necessarily in that order, and that makes us in my book the dominant spices. However we may have competition in the form of the ant. Scientists have discovered Argentine ants living in vast numbers across Europe, the US and Japan who belong to the same interrelated colony, and refuse to fight each other, is there something here that the human race can learn I wonder.

This colony may be the largest of its type ever known for any insect species, and could rival us humble humans in the scale of world domination. The simple fact is that the Argentineyen ants (Linepithema humile) were once native to South America, but we people have unknowingly and unintentionally introduced the ants to all continents except Antarctica. These particular ants are renowned for building large colonies, and allegedly becoming a significant pest, attacking native animals and crops.

In Europe, one vast colony of Argentine ants is thought to stretch for 6,000km (3,700 miles) along the Mediterranean coast, while another in the US, known as the 'Californian large', extends over 900km (560 miles) along the coast of California. A third huge colony exists on the west coast of Japan.

Experiments have revealed the true extent of the insects' global ambition.
The team selected wild ants from the main European super-colony, from another smaller one called the Catalonia super-colony which lives on the Iberian coast, the Californian super-colony and from the super-colony in west Japan, as well as another in Kobe, Japan.
They then matched up the ants in a series of one-on-one tests to see how aggressive individuals from different colonies would be to one another.
Ants from the smaller super-colonies were always aggressive to one another. So ants from the west coast of Japan fought their rivals from Kobe, while ants from the European super-colony didn't get on with those from the Iberian colony.

One big family

But whenever ants from the main European and Californian super-colonies and those from the largest colony in Japan came into contact, they acted as if they were old friends.
These ants rubbed antennae with one another and never became aggressive or tried to avoid one another.
In short, they acted as if they all belonged to the same colony, despite living on different continents separated by vast oceans.
The most plausible explanation is that ants from these three super-colonies are indeed family, and are all genetically related, say the researchers. When they come into contact, they recognise each other by the chemical composition of their cuticles.

The enormous extent of this population is paralleled only by human society.

However, the irony is that it is us who likely created the ant mega-colony by initially transporting the insects around the world, and by continually introducing ants from the three continents to each other, ensuring the mega-colony continues to mingle.

Humans created this great non-aggressive ant population.

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