The ants will rule us all!

If you're like me, and were a child of the 80's/90's, these pictures of a PG (but strangely violent) game will have moulded your perception of what an ant colony was all about. It's one of the greatest sims of all time, made when Maxis were king and games came on 3 1/4 inch disks - that's right it's SIM Ant! Nothing was more engrossing as building up a colony, scavenging food, and building an army large enough to repel red ants and over power spiders for food. But have you ever wondered what exactly an ant colony looks like? If your answer was "no," then too be honest you're not alone as neither did I. If your answer was "I just assumed the game was 100% accurate," well I guess you're not too far off my thoughts either. If your answer was "who cares ants are gay," you're probably homophobic and a bit of a dick. But nonetheless ants weren't really on my 'too think about today' list. Until I saw this. This picture shows a plaster cast made of an ant colony in the US - needless to say that's pretty damn impressive! Also a little scary...

 

What's scary is this mould is apparently nothing. What do I mean by nothing? I mean this was the biggest piece they could fit in the truck. Prepare for your mind to be suitably blown...

Now all this got me thinking, what else don't I know about ants - according to the internet, basically everything. So here's a couple of terrifying facts for you all taken straight from Wikipedia and About.com (cause everything on the internets is true...)

 

·The total biomass of all the ants on Earth is roughly equal to the total biomass of all the people on Earth.

Mind Blown! Apparently scientists estimate there are at least 1.5 million ants on the planet for every human being. Granted there are some tiny human beings so a million wouldn't really be a stretch, but at an estimate, a single acre of Amazon rainforest may house 3.5 million ants.

 

·Ants will enslave other ants, keeping them captive and making them do work for the colony.

All in all ants can be dicks. Some species of ant such as the honeypot ant will even enslave ants of the same species, taking individuals from foreign colonies to do their bidding. Polyergus queens, also known as Amazon ants, raid the colonies of unsuspecting Formica ants. The Amazon queen will find and kill theFormica queen, then enslave the Formica workers. The slave workers help her rear her own brood. When her Polyergus offspring reach adulthood, their sole purpose is to raid otherFormica colonies and bring back their pupae, ensuring a steady supply of slave workers. Seems oddly familiar...

 

·Ants lived alongside the dinosaurs.

According to About.com ants are known to have existed 130 million years ago. Considering the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago that's a fair amount of overlap! Now this shouldn't really surprise me, after all if Jurassic Park taught me anything, it was that dinosaurs could be rebirthed from mosquitoes. Yet 130 million years is quite an outstanding degree of longevity - especially if you're playing the long game in your bid for world domination...

 

·Ants started farming long before humans.

You did indeed read that correctly. Fungus farming ants began their micro farms about 50 million years before humans are thought to have began raising their own crops. Even more amazing, fungus farming ants have been shown to secrete chemicals with antibiotic properties to inhibit mould growth, and even devised fertilization methods using manure.

 

·Some ants form "supercolonies," massive communities of ants that can stretch for thousands of miles.

And back to the amazing colonies. Argentine ants, those ones that smell weird when you step on them, now inhabit every continent except Antarctica. Furthermore each ant colony has a distinctive chemical profile that enables members of the group to recognize each other, and alerts the colony to the presence of strangers. Scientists recently discovered that massive supercolonies in Europe, North America, and Japan all share the same chemical profile, meaning they are, in essence, a global supercolony of ants. Let's read those last four words together. Global, supercolony, of, ants.

Feeling like you'll soon be preparing for war with our inevitable ant overlords in something reminiscent of Starship Troopers? You're not alone...

 

"Why can't we all just get along!"