'Lord of the Ants' wins major environment award

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A leading US biologist known as the Lord of the Ants for his groundbreaking study of insects won a 400,000-euro ($546,000) Spanish award Tuesday for his life's work.

Edward Wilson, 81, was the first scientist to describe the social behaviour of ants, the BBVA Foundation said in a statement after conferring on him its Frontiers of Knowledge Award for ecology and conservation.

Wilson succeeded in deciphering ants' use of pheromones as a chemical language to communicate and plan routes, it said.

The biologist also coined and popularised the term biodiversity, the prize jury said.

His studies spread into other fields including a seminal work on island habitats, and he provided the basis for the new field of evolutionary psychology, the jury said.

Informed of the jury's decision on the eve of the announcement, Wilson said he saw the prize as a "culminating award" that recognised the advance of knowledge in the broadest sense, the foundation said.

Wilson, emeritus professor at Harvard University, had not lost his interest in ants, it added.

"I will certainly enjoy looking out for them when I come to Madrid for the award ceremony," he was quoted as saying.

"They have the most complex social systems of any creatures on Earth apart from humans. People often ask me how I can connect ants to people and I point out that the study of ants has had a huge impact on the study of human behaviour."

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