They’re here long before we are. More precisely 130 million years ago, since the Cretaceous period, according to a study conducted by Harvard University. Being one of the most popular insects in the world, ants live in colonies in a fully organized system where each one has a specific function.
And how is everything kept in order? Through incessant work. Whether day or night, about 40% of ants are active. And even those in apparent rest can spring into action if the need arises. However, at least 20% are useless and ended up being named as “lazy ants”.
Caste, queen and her subjects
In the underground world of anthills, the ant population is divided into castes, organized around a queen. She spends her life producing eggs that will give rise to her subjects.
But the most numerous caste are the worker ants, who protect the colony and are responsible for taking care of the queen’s food and eggs.
In this daily coming and going, there are still winged females and males, who mate to generate new members for the group. And what will determine whether an ant will become a worker or a winged female is the amount of food it receives while still in the larval stage.
Fungi in the stomach
Anyone who thinks that ants feed on leaves, grains, sugar or bits of other insects is sorely mistaken.
What they do is simply take all of this into the anthill where fungi will be grown, which will become the food for the ants.
But there are species that feed on the sap of plants and also carnivores, which eat animals alive or dead.
After all, there are about a million species of ants in the world, of which 18,000 are known and more than 2,000 are cataloged in Brazil.
And most interestingly, they have two stomachs. One for their own consumption and the other to feed the ones that stay in the nest taking care of other functions.
Inside the body structure
As is popular knowledge, ants are extremely resistant and can carry up to 50 times more than their own weight.
On the head are two antennae, the mandible and eyes. The antennae are responsible for the ants’ senses: touch, smell and taste.
The jaw is used to crush food, defend itself and dig tunnels. They also have compound eyes, as each is made up of countless tiny structures.
Despite not having ears, ants are not deaf. They hear through special sensors in their paws that pick up ground vibrations. Below the head are the thorax and motor limbs, as well as wings (some lack) and three pairs of legs.
Sociability is genetic basis
According to researcher Laurent Keller, from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, the social life of ants that are always united and work in groups is a reflection of the genetic basis, that is, they are born programmed to help each other.
They live many years compared to other insects precisely because they live in society, in communities, where they help each other. They are collaborative, protect themselves and can even manufacture medicines, according to the specialist.
There are species of ants that live from 10 to 15 years and there is a queen that has reached 28 years. Workers live from one to two years, which is considered a long time for an insect.
According to Laurent Keller, there are internal rebellions in colonies and even wars between ants, especially when they fight for the same space, which is also explained by the genetic basis.
In a colony, there can be between two million and 20 million ants. And these insects are essential to avoid environmental chaos, since they help to pollinate, to defend certain plant species against animals, to disperse plant seeds, that is, without the ants, nature could collapse.
And before you step on any of them, know that they will survive human beings and are an example of resistance and even demonstrate a certain immortality in terms of maintaining the species on the planet, as they have already overcome cataclysms, glaciations, always adapting under the protection of the mechanism. sophistication existing in its structures and also in social life.
Via: El País, SuperInteressante and Ciência Viva
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