Intelligence of Ants

Intelligence of Ants

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Most of us rest in a general hazy belief that ants are wonderfully intelligent animals, without knowing exactly in what ways and degrees the intelligent action of these animals is displayed. This books analyzes facts regarding the intelligence of ants : their Powers of Special Sense, Powers of Communication, Memory, Nursing, Keeping Pets, Play and Leisure..., and presents how they organize their society.

Taken altogether these facts certainly justify the remark of the most illustrious of naturalists: "The brain of an ant is one of the most marvelous atoms of matter in the world, perhaps more so than the brain of a man."


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Publié par
Date de parution 19 octobre 2016
Nombre de visites sur la page 5
EAN13 9782366593037
Licence : Tous droits réservés
Langue English

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Intelligence of Ants
Intelligence of Ants
By George J. Romanes
LM Publishers
The Ants and the Grasshopper
The Ants were spending a fine winter's day drying grain collected in the summertime. A Grasshopper, perishing with famine, passed by and earnestly begged for a little food. The Ants inquired of him, "Why did you not treasure up food during the summer?" He replied, "I had not leisure enough. I passed the days in singing." They then said in derision: "If you were foolish enough to sing all the summer, you must dance supperless to bed in the winter."
(Aesop's Fables)
I
Ihave frequently been much struck by the absence of information, even among professed naturalists and professed psychologists, concerning the intelligence of ants. The literature on the subject being scattered and diffused, it is not many persons who have either the leisure or the inclination to search it out for themselves. Most of us, therefore, either rest in a general hazy belief that ants are wonderfully intelligent animals, without knowing exactly in what ways and degrees the intelligent action of these animals is displayed; or else, having read Sir John Lubbock's investigations, we come to the general conclusion that ants are not really such very intelligent animals, after all, but, as was to have been expected from their small size and low position in the zoological scale, it only required some such methodical course of scientific investigation to show that previous ideas upon the subject were exaggerated, and that, when properly tested, ants are found to be rather stupid than otherwise. I have therefore thought it well to write a paper for this widely circulated review, in order to diffuse some precise information concerning the facts of this interesting branch of natural history.
Not having any observations of my own to communicate, I have no special right to be heard on this subject; but, as I have recently had occasion to read through the literature connected with it, I am able to render what I may call a filtered abstract of all the facts which have hitherto been observed by others. It is needful, however, to add that the filter has been necessarily a close one; if I had a large volume instead of a short paper as my containing vessel, the filtrate would still require to be a strongly condensed substance.
Powers of Special Sense . Let us take first the sense of sight. Sir John Lubbock made a number of experiments on the influence of light colored by passing through various tints of stained glass, with the following results: 1. The ants which he observed greatly disliked the presence of light within their nests," hurrying about in search of the darkest corners "when light was admitted. 2. Some colors were much more distasteful to them than others; for while under a slip of red glass there were on one occasion congregated 890 ants, under a green slip there were 544, under a yellow 495, and under a violet only 5. 3. The rays thus act on these ants in a graduated series, which corresponds with the order of their influence on a photographic plate. Experiments were therefore made to test the effect of the rays on either side of the visible spectrum, but with negative results. In considering these experiments, however, it is important to remember that other observers (especially Moggridge in Europe, and McCook in America) have described other species of ants (genusAtta) as fond of light. It would be interesting for anyone who has an opportunity to try whether ants of this genus do not show toward the rays of the spectrum a scale of preference the reverse of that which Sir John Lubbock described.
As regards hearing, Sir John found that sounds of various kinds do not produce any effect upon the insects, nor could he obtain any evidence of their emitting sounds, either audible or inaudible to human ears.
It has long been known that the sense of smell in ants is highly developed, and it appears to be the sense on which, like dogs, they mainly rely. Huber proved that they track one another's footsteps in finding their way to food, etc.; for he observed, on drawing his finger across the trail so as to obliterate the scent, that the ants became confused and ran about in various directions, till they again came upon the trail on the other side of the interrupted space. By many ingeniously devised experiments Lubbock has amply confirmed Huber's statements, and concludes that in finding treasure "they are guided in some cases by sight, while in others they track one another by scent"—depending, however, more upon scent than upon sight.
There can be little doubt that ants have a sense of taste, as they are so well able to distinguish sugary substances; and it is unquestionable that in their antenna they possess highly elaborated organs of touch.
Sense of Direction. It is certain that ants, in common with many other animals, possess some unaccountable sense of direction, whereby they are able to find their way independently of landmarks, etc. Sir John Lubbock tried a number of experiments in this connection, of which the following is perhaps the most conclusive: Between the nest and the food he placed a hat-box, in each of two opposite sides of which he bored a small hole, so that the ants, in passing from the nest to the food and back again, had to go in at one hole and out at the other. The box was fixed upon a pivot, where it could be easily rotated, and, when the ants had well learned their way to the food through the box, the latter was turned half round as soon as an ant had entered it; "but in every case the ant turned too, thus retaining her direction."
Sir John then placed in the stead of a hat-box a disk of white paper. When an ant was on the disk making toward the food, he gently drew the paper to the other side of the food, so that the
ant was conveyed by the moving surface in the same direction as that in which she was going, but beyond the point to which she intended to go. Under these circumstances the ant did not turn round, but went on to the farther edge of the disk, "when she seemed a good deal surprised at finding where she was."
These results seem to indicate that the sense of direction is due to a process of registering all the changes of direction which may be made during the out-going journey, and that this power of registration has reference only tolateralit has no reference to variations in the movements; velocity of advance along the line in which the animal is progressing.