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crazyvanman
Dec 31, 2010


This thread is super cool, thanks!

A couple of antecdotes anecdotes relating to ants from my childhood that have always stayed with me. I wonder if you guys could shed any light on them?

First, when I was around 9 y/o I was digging a hole and caught a glimpse of some ants carrying what appeared to be a newt larva into their nest. This was only about a metre from a pond, so presumably they some how retrieved it from there and were taking it home to eat? Of course to my child mind I had actually uncovered an inter-species plot to overthrow humanity where ants were working with lizards and were going to work their way up the food chain until an animal conspiracy would take us down.

Second story happened around the same time, when I noticed a small patch of mud (it was rock hard as this was summer) with around 4-5 dead ants on it. What struck me was that they were just lying there, dead. They hadn't been trampled by something large, they weren't near a nest and were in good physical condition. Again at the time I marvelled at this site of undergrowth battle I had discovered, where doubtless these ant heroes had fought valiantly. But what might kill ants in this way and not bother to eat them?

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crazyvanman
Dec 31, 2010


This was in the UK so it wasn't particularly hot, so sounds like a battleground may have been a likely explanation? Actually, reflecting on my younger self's anthropomorphisation of ants, is that a challenge in studying ants? So much of the terminology used, at least by lay people like me, is totally loaded language like 'queen', 'soldier' etc. Do you just come to diassociate that from their human meanings, or do you find the terms problematic at all?

Thanks for the explanations, both of you.

crazyvanman
Dec 31, 2010


Sorry for taking a long time to respond. Thanks for responding to my question about terminology, I really enjoyed the answers. As generally a history person I come from a space where language and its ambiguities is kind of the fun and useful part. However also having an interest in science/ecology I notice that one big difference is that using language is actually a pain and you have to compromise a lot. Particularly in English when a lot of the terms come out of the days of 'natural history' and the Victorian age and all its concurrent baggage.

I remember being in a temple in Thailand some years ago and seeing ants carrying a scorpion up a vertical wall. It was really impressive but it took them a long time to work out the best way. I came back around half an hour later and they had changed their mind about which route they were going to take. Do we have any idea how they are communicating when doing something like that?

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