Saturday, August 28, 2010

Humans VS ants

I finished reading Deborah D. Gordons book on ant behaviour [5] and came across some curious/funny similarities between ant and human behaviour. Sit back and enjoy. :)

Choosing a destination

Ants: “If the density of the ants at the new site is high enough, the scouts will go back to the old nest and recruit the rest of the colony to move. The scouts merely asses the numbers, not the satisfaction of the ants in the new site, but because satisfaction is linked to the probability that an ant will stay in a new site, numbers of ants in the new site are correlated with its quality”

Humans: Isn't that kind of how it works for choosing a vacation destinations as well? The rule of thumb seems to be the same: if a lot of people are enjoying themselves over there it must be a nice place to visit.

Dare to explore

Ants: “Another example of positive feedback is that foragers are stimulated to leave the nest when successful foragers come in.”

Humans: Only few brave ones dare to leave for the unknown. Once it has been proven however that the journey is worth the while others follow in masses.

What you see is what you become

Ants: “An ant that is not performing midden work is more likely to switch to do midden work then its rate of contact with midden workers is high”

Humans: What you have seen people in your near environment doing while growing up will influence what you consider possible and what you will become.

Unemployment and work-force reserves

Ants: “As an ant colony grows, if all the new ants are not foraging, what are they doing? Surprisingly, the answer seems to be that they are doing nothing. As a colony grows larger, the proportion of reserves grows.

Humans: It looks as if every time you have a society that uses collaboration to create food reserves (i.e. not every single individual needs to produce his/her own food) unemployment seems to be a natural consequence. At the same time this enables the members that are not occupied with food production/foraging to do other tasks (nest maintenance). Ant and human societies seem to be alike from this point of view.

Task fidelity and specialisation rates

Ants: “In an older (and larger) colony, ants tend to perform the same task from one day to the next unless there is a drastic change in the environment”

Humans: When societies are small everyone needs to be able to perform almost all tasks necessary for survival. As our societies grew division of labor increased as well. If you (say) design clothes for a living today, you don't need to know how to build a house or milk a cow. It suffices that you know how to make nice clothes.

Youth obsessed with their appearance

Ants: “younger workers spent more time grooming themselves”

Humans: I sort of suspect that this is the same for humans...

Xenophobic ants

Ants: You got them in all varieties. Super-hostile ants and super-peaceful ants. Ants that “hate” their neighbors and ants that more worried about ants that come from far-far away.

Humans: Alike...

Sabotaging the competitor

Ants: There are a lot of ant-plant symbiotic systems. In those cases the ants live in the plant and feed from it. In return the ants take care of the plant: they protect if from dangerous bugs and go as far as to sabotage and kill neighbouring plants! The Myrmelachista schumanni ants climb onto neighboring plants, chew a hole in it and fill it with formic acid. As a result the plant dies...


A bunch of kids or a career?

Ants: “In fact many ant queens appear not to do much besides laying eggs. But workers do a great many things. […] A species in which some individuals reproduce and others do not is called 'eusocial', truly social.”

Human: Are we eusocial as well?