Oxford £8.99 (252pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Lives of Ants, By Laurent Keller & Elisabeth Gordon
Friday 05 March 2010
Pretty much everything is astonishing about ants. Though they prefer a bit of heat, they are also found in Finland and the Alps. They are more of them than any other animal.
A total census is impossible, but a colony living in 2.7 square kilometres of Japan was found to contain 306 million workers and over a million queens.
It is estimated that the total weight of ants equals the human population. They are the most gregarious creatures in the world with a sophisticated social organisation run on strictly hierarchic lines.
Like humans, they embark on wars (often with chemical weapons), work in teams, milk other animals, build impressive architecture and sometimes radically affect the environment.
This anthropomorphism we mistakenly apply to meerkats is far more justified in the case of the scarily similar ant society.
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