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Ants or SuperAnts?

Speculated on first item below in August '99, in this answer -

"What if the two colonies (small Japanese or Swiss "super colonies" - only ones then known) are not becoming extinct but are forerunners of a trend in social evolution in ants?"

[went on to multiply number of brain-cells per ant to give an estimated joint `intelligence' equal to 10,000 humans for that then largest-known colony]

"Ant Colony on Verge of Extinction" 08/01/99

"For Prof. Seigo Higashi, this is not just an anthill, it's a life's work. For 28 years, he has studied, counted and even lived among the hundreds of millions of Japanese red wood ants that dwell on this strip of shoreline.

In the early 1970s, Higashi was part of a Hokkaido University team that made a startling discovery. Studying ants on the coastal grasslands of Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, they found a cluster of nests linked in a large network, a supercolony.

At the time of its discovery, the Hokkaido colony included an estimated 45,000 nests and stretched nearly 12.4 miles along the shore of the Japan Sea.

The complex housed an estimated 307 million Japanese red wood ants, including some 306 million workers and about 1.1 million queens.

The scale was _ and still is _ unprecedented. ``As a species, this ant isn't rare or particularly unusual,'' said Higashi, who took the first headcount here in 1971. ``As a supercolony, though, it's really something.''

There are only two known ant supercolonies in the world. The other, smaller one is in the Swiss Jura mountains.

that was then - AP report [12:03 PM ET 08/01/99 ] by Ginny Parker on Hokkaido `super colony'

Then - 16 April 2002

By Steve Connor, Science Editor - "The Independent" 16 April 2002

"Giant invasion of Argentine ants conquers Europe"

"Billions of ants from Argentina have created the Earth's biggest "super organism" in Europe, a network of communicating worker ants spanning more than 3,700 miles.

The invading ants are in millions of nests in a supercolony stretching from northern Italy, through the south of France to the Atlantic coast of Spain, in what is thought to be the largest co-operative unit of individual organisms.

Laurent Keller, professor of ecology at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, whose research is published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said entomologists had never before recorded such a huge supercolony of ants.

"A collection of colonies acting as one can be described as a supercolony. It is very unusual because ants are usually highly aggressive," Professor Keller said".

Then - Spring 2002

Those tiny black ants that infest your yard and your kitchen have laid claim to a far bigger piece of real estate.

Studies by researchers from the Davis and San Diego campuses show that, from Ukiah to beyond the Mexican border, California is one huge supercolony of Argentine ants.

DNA comparisons have shown that, though the ants have spread widely since they first arrived in the country in the New Orleans area, they have yet to become genetically diverse.

"Colonies are so closely related they even exchange workers," says collaborator Andy Suarez, a former UC Davis entomology postdoctoral fellow now at UC Berkeley. And that has given them an advantage. Back home in Argentina, competition between rival colonies keeps their numbers in check, but most of the California imports recognize each other as family, said Neil Tsutsui, a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Population Biology at UC Davis who conducted the study along with Suarez and UC San Diego researchers David Holway and Ted Case.

Because competition is directed outward instead of inward and because Argentine ants have the advantage of multiple queens in each colony, they have displaced native ants and become one of California's leading household and agricultural pests.

Then - 12 August 2004

Michelle Pountney, science reporter 12 Aug 04

"Invading ants may take over"

A GIANT colony of invading ants has spread 100km across Melbourne.

Argentine ants have been found from Taylors Lakes to Sorrento, and Altona to Blackburn.

Ms Suhr said genetic changes in the Melbourne ant colony had allowed them to multiply out of control. "In Argentina, their native homeland, ant colonies span tens of metres, are genetically diverse and highly aggressive towards one another,"

"When they arrived in Australia, a change in their structure occurred, changing their behaviour so that they are not aggressive towards one another. This has resulted in the colonies becoming one super-colony.

"One colony can be put with another colony 100km apart and they still won't display aggression but will instead merge into one colony. With this numerical superiority, they can spread far."

Ms Suhr said there were huge ecological implications if the ants continued to multiply. In California, they have displaced native ants, decreased the diversity of other native insects, affected ecosystem processes such as seed dispersal and plant pollination, and even decreased numbers of lizards.

The small brown argentine ants are about 4mm long, and are not considered dangerous to humans or pets.

It is unknown how they arrived in Australia, but it is thought they hitch-hiked on imported goods. "They have spread to all Mediterranean-type eco-systems around the world, so Melbourne and the rest of southern Australia is ideal," Ms Suhr said.

Then - 1 July 2009

Matt Walker, Editor, Earth News 1 July 2009

"Ant mega-colony takes over world "

A single mega-colony of ants has colonised much of the world, scientists have discovered.

Argentine ants living in vast numbers across Europe, the US and Japan belong to the same inter-related colony, and will refuse to fight one another.

The colony may be the largest of its type ever known for any insect species, and could rival humans in the scale of its world domination.

What's more, people are unwittingly helping the mega-colony stick together.

Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) were once native to South America.  But people have unintentionally introduced the ants to all continents except Antarctica.

These introduced Argentine ants are renowned for forming large colonies, and for becoming a significant pest, attacking native animals and crops.

In Europe, one vast colony of Argentine ants is thought to stretch for 6,000km (3,700 miles) along the Mediterranean coast, while another in the US, known as the "Californian large", extends over 900km (560 miles) along the coast of California.  A third huge colony exists on the west coast of Japan.

While ants are usually highly territorial, those living within each super-colony are tolerant of one another, even if they live tens or hundreds of kilometres apart.  Each super-colony, however, was thought to be quite distinct.

But it now appears that billions of Argentine ants around the world all actually belong to one single global mega-colony.

Researchers in Japan and Spain led by Eiriki Sunamura of the University of Tokyo found that Argentine ants living in Europe, Japan and California shared a strikingly similar chemical profile of hydrocarbons on their cuticles.

But further experiments revealed the true extent of the insects' global ambition.

The team selected wild ants from the main European super-colony, from another smaller one called the Catalonian super-colony which lives on the Iberian coast, the Californian super-colony and from the super-colony in west Japan, as well as another in Kobe, Japan.

They then matched up the ants in a series of one-on-one tests to see how aggressive individuals from different colonies would be to one another.

Ants from the smaller super-colonies were always aggressive to one another.  So ants from the west coast of Japan fought their rivals from Kobe, while ants from the European super-colony didn't get on with those from the Iberian colony.

But whenever ants from the main European and Californian super-colonies and those from the largest colony in Japan came into contact, they acted as if they were old friends.

These ants rubbed antennae with one another and never became aggressive or tried to avoid one another.

In short, they acted as if they all belonged to the same colony, despite living on different continents separated by vast oceans.

The most plausible explanation is that ants from these three super-colonies are indeed family, and are all genetically related, say the researchers.  When they come into contact, they recognise each other by the chemical composition of their cuticles.

Page last updated at 10:41 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 11:41 UK

Argentine Ants - Queen and Worker
Argentine Ants - image from article above


Ongoing Evolution?

`Creepy thought'

Millions of human brains' computing power is contained within one huge co-operating super-colony - Yes?

Yes - although individual ants seem to behave `instinctively' - [that's a cheat word we use to "explain" ref-01 something we don't understand ref-02] - a co-operating group acts in a co-ordinated, logical and pro-active way to achieve their communal aims.

Face it, social insects act & react in conscious, intelligent ways - as a group.  Ants & termites will change their nest-making habits when humans endanger them.

So `thinking' is happening, in or by that nest.  So who or what's doing that thinking?

Hapgood advised `talking to Ants'


Ants have been living on the Earth for at least 100 million years ref-03 and can be found almost anywhere on the planet.

Scientists say that about 15 percent of the Earth's biomass - the combined weight of all living [animal] things - is composed of ants. Another 17 percent is taken up by termites.ref-04
The combined weight of all ants on earth is more than the weight of all humans

There are nearly 10,000 known species of ants, but scientists believe there actually may be two or three times this many in existence.  Japan has about 260 species of ants, while there are about 700 species of ants in the United States and Canada.

Ants have one of the largest brains of all insects, with roughly 250,000 brain cells   (although bumblebees have even more, about 950,000;  a human has between 10 billion and 100 billion, depending who you believe).

The longest living ants - wood ant queens - are known to live more than 20 years.

Ants can lift up to 20 times their own body weight.  If humans were this strong, a 150-pound person would be able to easily lift a walrus.  Ants are not only strong, they are fast.  If a person could run as fast for his size as an ant can, he could match the pace of a racehorse.

Real secrets of Earth's plant and animal life are still largely mysterious to human `science' ref-05

But here's Carl Sagan in "Cosmos"

"An oak tree and I are made of the same stuff.  If you go back far enough, we have a common ancestor" ref-06

We are Animals too  -  Retribution is inevitable

Animal Communicators Series

Page 1 - Birds

Page 2 - Bees

Page 3 - Seals
Page 4 - Photos of that walk

Page 5 - Dolphins & Whales

Page 6 - Ants, or SuperAnts?

- working here -

Page 7 - Retribution?

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