Monday, October 18, 2010

Ants can farm

We've already made it extensively clear that the world will not end in fire or ice, but covered in ants.
But besides their colonies -- which oh by the way are ridiculously extensive underground labyrinths...

... what's so special about these insects?
Well, humans, with our big, fancy brains, have been around for 250,000 years or so but it took us until very recently (15,000 or so years ago) to "invent" the idea of growing our own food rather than just finding berries and nuts out in the wild. And while people like to say that art, or fire, or "love" is man's greatest invention, the Statue of David can suck it, because agriculture is the most important thing man has done. Farming allowed man to stay in one place, inadvertently giving rise to towns, cities, states -- shaping civilization as we know it.

Somewhere along the line, we replaced crude huts with 3D pornography and Bugles.
But if we'd been watching ants, we'd have figured it out a lot sooner. Long before we were even chasing wooly mammoths with spears or riding around in our crude, foot-powered cars, ants had mastered the art of sustainable agriculture.

And the art of buttsex.
Leaf cutter ants will take cut up bits of plant into their ant-hills. Then, instead of just eating them, they'll lay the bits down and shit on them so that a certain fungus will grow. They then cultivate the fungus, feeding it new plant material when necessary. They even have developed techniques to protect their fungus from other, non-edible molds -- so not only are they farming, they've made themselves a safe and effective pesticide.
And they did all of this 50 million years before we came along..

In another 50 million years, they could have Pong.

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