The ant colony has memories that the ants themselves do not have.

Did it ever occur to you that a colonyants similar to the work of neurons in the human brain? If not, then now you can hardly think about it. If you carefully monitor these insects, you will notice that each ant behaves as a separate neuron in the brain. Neurons are unique in that each individual neuron does not have a special memory, however, the collective work of nerve cells in the brain allows us to form and store memories. Human memory is the result of the work of a group of neurons. Similarly, the memory of an ant colony, if we can imagine it at all, arises from the individual work of each individual ant and their interaction with each other.

Do you think colonies of ants look like a human brain?

Why does one ant not have the memory of the entire colony?

A recent article in Aeon magazine is dedicated to thisidea. Stanford University biologist Deborah Gordon writes about ant colonies in Finland, which for decades have remained in the same place "occupied by many generations of ants." Each such colony remembers its own trail system, leading to the same trees year after year, although not a single ant knows this path. It is also surprising that in spring, after hibernation, the senior ant leaves with the young one, and they both follow the usual path of the senior ant. After the death of the eldest ant, the younger takes its trail as its own, thereby prompting the colony to remember or reproduce the path to the trees as in the previous year.

Of these thousands of small interactionsthe memory of the colony is formed. Gordon has shown this in other ways. The researcher "bothered" the ants, creating a variety of obstacles in their path. These disturbances affected only a small number of ants, but, curiously, the behavior of other insects in the colony also changed. Gordon explains this as follows: after several days of repeating the experiment, the colonies continued to behave the same as during the unrest, even after all the interference was removed. Not a single ant remembered anything, but in a sense the colony remembered everything. Do you think these are signs of collective memory? Let's discuss this with the participants in our Telegram chat.

It looks like an ordinary anthill in the forest

Agree, this is amazing. However, there are even more aspects that support the idea of ​​the collective memory of an ant colony. While a single ant lives only a year, colonies exist for decades. Gordon found that the younger colonies had more overreaction to its obstacles than the older ones. This is reminiscent of the reaction of a teenager to a stimulus that, in adulthood, practically does not bother anyone. According to the researcher, over time, the old colonies begin to act more wisely than the younger and smaller colonies, although there are no elderly and wise ants in the older colony.

Is there the collective wisdom of an ant colony?

Argentinean Ant - A species of ants native toArgentina, but with time spread over almost all over the world. These insects are found today in Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, the USA, and also Europe. A 2002 article reported a striking fact about the population of Argentinean ants in Europe: these insects were divided into two "supercolonies", each of which stretches for thousands of kilometers. Larger colonies actually form the largest cooperative unit ever recorded. But this does not mean that the entire continent is covered with two giant anthills. And yet - these are widely separated colonies of ants that do not fight each other. It seems as if the ants understand that they are somehow connected. But if ants from one supercolony are placed next to ants from another, they will instantly become aggressive. Insects will viciously attack each other, intending to kill. In this case, all ants are of the same species. You must admit that “war” is really a suitable word to describe this situation.

Here is an Argentinean ant

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Watching two hostile argentiniansuper colonies of ants in the southwestern United States, researchers estimate that 30 million ants die each year as a result of clashes between them (Adventures Among Ants, Mark W. Moffett). One supercolony contains about a trillion ants, so 30 million is a negligible fraction, but it still gives an idea of ​​the nature and scale and, ultimately, the futility of the militancy that these insects exhibit.

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But what does all this information tell us? Firstly, it is incredible that the ants developed a certain collective idea of ​​who belongs to the colony and who does not. This is nothing more than a manifestation of collective consciousness or memory. Secondly, the warring colonies were formed long ago. And yet, if you imagine that with age, ants gain wisdom, as Deborah Gordon writes in his article, and in particular that wisdom casts doubt on war and killings, this certainly does not apply to Argentine ants. However, as with representatives of Homo Sapiens.