Ants are frequently regarded as eusocial insects of the Formicidae order known for including the related bees and wasps of the family of Hymenoptera. It is theorized that during the mid-Cretaceous period somewhere between one hundred and ten and one hundred and thirty million years ago ants evolved from their wasp-like predecessors subsequently diversifying after the increase in angiosperms (flowering plants).
Of the total 22,000 species of ants today more than 12,000 have been classified and identified according to their characteristic node-like structure forming their slightly build waist and their elbowed antennas.
The average colony of the ant can range anywhere between a few dozen predacious individuals known to habitat small innate gaps to very organized communities occupying vast territories sometimes consisting of millions of ants. Such large colonies will mostly be composed of sterile, wingless female ants creating castes of “worker” ants, “soldiers” as well as other groups. Almost every ant colony will consist of a number of fertile male “drones” along with a single or sometimes more than one fertile female commonly known as the “queen”.
Some early myrmecologists (the branch of entomology that deals with ants) considered ant colonies as an ideal form of society or super organism due to their natural ability to operate as a single unit in a collective manner to support the entire colony.
Almost every known land mass on Earth has been colonized by ants with the only territories seen without indigenous ants being the southmost continent of Antarctica as well as a few distant and inhabitable islands. Ants are known for their potential to flourish in most ecosystems sometimes accounting for as much as twenty-five percent of the terrestrial animal biomass due to their social organization and natural ability to modify their habitat, defend themselves as well as exploit a wide range of natural resources for food often acting as scavengers, herbivores and even predators. The coevolution of the ant with other known species to date has frequently resulted in a number of long standing relationships formed such as of a parasitic, mimetic, mutualistic and commensal nature.
Facts About Ants
▪ Several human cultures are known for using ants as a form of cuisine, ceremonial rituals, medication as well as type biological pest control agent.
▪ Ants are known for their natural ability to exploit natural resources which can often lead to the damage of harvest crops as well as encroaching on buildings and homes as commonly seen with the species of ant known as the fire ant which has the capacity to establish themselves in territories where that have been accidentally introduced.
▪ The word ant is derived from the Middle English word emete which originally used as the word for “the biter”.
▪ Despite common beliefs, termites which are sometimes called “white ants” are not ants, as the genetics of reproduction of the termite is vastly different from the ant and as such are recognized as belong to the family of Isoptera and more closely related to the mantid and cockroach. And although termites like ants are seen as eusocial insects, the similarity in social organization of the termite is attributed mostly to convergent evolution.
▪ The average size of the ant can range anywhere between 0.75 to just over 50 millimeters with the largest known species to date recognized as the Titanomyrma giganteum which was a “queen” 2.4 inches in length and a wingspan of almost six inches.
▪ Although most ants can be seen as either black or red, ants according to their species will vary in color with some species of ants appearing green while other tropical species recognized by their metallic lustre.
▪ Similar to other insects the body of the ant consists of an exoskeleton which acts as a protective covering around its body with a point of attachment for its muscles. The head of the ant contains a vast number of sensory organs and compound eyes constructed from several microscopic lens attached together and although suitable for the detection of acute movement, their eyes do not offer high resolution images. When compared to vertebrates most ants are known for their mediocre to poor eyesight with a small number of subterranean species completely blind. However some ants such as the bulldog ant native to Australia are known for their excellent vision and as such are able to distinguish the distance and size of objects up to a distance of almost a meter away.
▪ Contrary to popular beliefs that most species of ants have a system in which only the queen and breeding females have the potential to breed, some colonies are known to consist of multiple queens as well as other colonies may even exist without a queen. This is generally seen in worker ant colonies by worker ants known as gamergates have the ability to reproduce.
▪ In some ant colonies queens can live as much as up to thirty years one hundred times longer than any other isolated insect of similar size, with workers living sometimes up to 3 years. Males on the other hand are seen as more transitory living just for a few weeks.
The Ant Cam seen on Animal Planer is made available by the Audubon Nature Institute, and shows leaf cutter ants scavenging for foliage away from their colonies while producing pheromone trails which are laid down as a means for finding their way home.
View Animal Planet Ant Cam.
National History Museum Ant Webcam
The National History Museum Creepy Crawlies gallery features a colony of hundreds of leaf cutter ants living in a large ant case made from glass known as a formicary. Visitors to the national History Museum website can via the Creepy Crawlies to watch the leaf cutter ants going in and out of their nest while carrying bits of forage leaves along suspended walkways occasionally drinking water from the surrounding ditch.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Ant Webcam
The University of Wisconsin-Madison live stream webcam shows a busy ant colony kept in the Curie Lab area of the University.
View Curie-Lab Ant Cam.
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