Friday, 5 July 2019

A Colony of Ants


When I was studying, everyone asked me, what do you want to be. Doctor or engineer? Nobody asked me 'do you want to be a conservationist'? May be it didn't make the cut of being a 'cool' profession with lots of money. But I wish someone showed me earlier in my life, how much we can learn from nature. However hard we try, nature has already created better doctors, engineers, manufacturing and management professionals way before us. Don't agree with me? Just see a cobweb or a colony of ants!!!

A colony of leaf-cutter ants in amazon rainforest can run into millions. The collective function of the colony is to cut leaves and carry them back to their underground nests. These ants harvest as much as one fifth of all new plant growth around their colonies. They produce high frequency vibrations that stiffens the leaves when they slice through them with specialized mandibles. This makes it easier to cut the leaves. Acting like a mega herbivore, a colony of these tiny ants can work together to strip a tree bare within 24 hours. They follow scent trails back to their nest, avoiding all unintended obstacles. Their nest can be upto 8 meters deep and can have thousands of interconnected chambers. The ant workers' job is to carry the freshly harvested leaves to specific chamber for processing. The leaves are then used to create gardens of fungus as food for their larvae. As if this wasn't awe-inspiring enough, the colonies collaborate with bacteria to help control pathogens that could destroy their fungi.

There are many more such examples in the nature. The way birds build their nests, the way animals tend to their wounds with their saliva, spiders and insects build traps for their prey, fishes prepare colorful patterns on the seabed to attract mates....all these are nothing short of miracles. If there is anything meaningful I wish to do with my life, I hope I can contribute, however small, towards saving this miracle nature.

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