Friday, August 14, 2009

Curious Thoughts

Forelius Ant

I read a TON of material, primarily scientific books and magazines, but my personal adage has long been "if it has text and doesn't move away from me, I'll read it." Now I'm not saying I reTAIN all the data I take in, though I very likely do; I just haven't figured out how to access all the files. Today, I was reading American Naturalist, and encountered the following information:

Scientists in Brazil have observed an unusual act of selflessness. When Forelius ants retire for the night, one or more workers remain outside the colony, kicking sand to seal the entrance. If that protects those within from predators or rain, it dooms the outside ants to die overnight of exposure. It's the first known case of "pre-emptive self-sacrifice" among insects.

Forelius Ant Colony Entrance Being Closed

After I read that, I just sat by the window, looking out, thinking. How do they choose who stays outside? DO they chose, or is it a case of last one home's a rotten egg? And do the sacrificial ants stay outside the entrance and die, or do they move away to remove any trace of lure for predators? If they stay, what happens to their little exoskeletons the next day? Do the inside ants move them away? Eat their hapless brothers? Just ignore them and crawl over and around them as they go about their antish business? Surely not the last, as there would be quite a pile of little bodies after just a few nights, and that would surely attract those pesky predators. And if they're capable of self-sacrific for the greater good of the colony, is there some modicum of sentience within those ants we are simply too large and bumbling to have discerned? Do ants mourn their losses? Does the fact that SOMEONE is gonna hafta stay outside and die cause them pause on any level? And if so, does that mean their tiny ant brains are convoluted enough that they think, and if they think, is evolution inevitable? And evolution to what end? A better system that allows all the ants to live? Or some Faith grown around the inevitability of death and self-sacrifice? For that matter, does the evidenced self-sacrifice represent sentience all by itself?

Life offers us such ponderous wonders to examine. In an ant's self-sacrifice, I find the same question every human has asked, "Why?" And the answer is as complex as all those questions above, and as simple as "because it must be done."

I suppose Mr. Spock said it best for me, “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

1 comment:

~*~Patty Szymkowicz said...

fascinating and very thought provoking....your writing and reasoning are really special!