There are over 22,000 different species of ants in the world, yet they all behave and live in the same fashion – it almost seems too good to be true for that sheer amount of individuals to all work towards the same common goal within their own communities, doesn’t it? Ant colonies are as diverse as they are numerous, and can be as strong as several dozen ants to several million, with their underground corridors stretching hundreds of meters below our feet.
Highly organized and incredibly efficient, ants are sorted into different castes that have a specific role in their colony. There are wingless females, most of which are the colony’s workers, as well as soldier ants and other specialised groups. Like with bees, there is usually one or more queens, with fertile males who help them produce more offspring. Each caste’s role is integral to the colony, and without one caste, the colony would fail making every ant at least somewhat responsible for the future of their community.
What is even more intriguing is that their ability to work as a society has demonstrated very interesting behaviour, including the ability to divide labour, communicate between each other, solve complex problem and even show form of empathy. It is no wonder that many a social scientist has studied their behaviour with the idea of transposing it to ours in order to make us more efficient. However, it doesn’t seem as though the drone-like workmanship of ants will ever be able to make a cross-species gap – that doesn’t mean that we can’t admire it though!
As such, these ant colonies have been described as superorganisms due to the appearance that all the ants in the colony all work together to fulfil an objective: survive. They are so good at that particular objective that they can be found on every landmass in the world save Antarctica, with their skills in gathering resources, adapting to different environmental factors key reasons for their continued existence in some of the world’s more inhospitable areas.
Additionally, ants have managed to coevolve with a multitude of other species, who have helped form symbiotic relationships that have benefitted both parties and aided in their mutual survival. Ants are truly one of the more fascinating insects on Earth, and it is believed they make up to 25% of terrestrial animal biomass – an indication of the sheer number of them working away on our planet.