Tuesday, July 5, 2011

FORMIGA POWER: A tale of a rebellious Brazilian Ant by Miriam Portela and Marguerita Bornstein

In Proverbs, King Solomon had some advice for those rushing into print with ill-informed opinions: "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise."

drawings by marguerita
all rights reserved 2011.

For many years I am fascinated by insects.I like to draw,create sculptures and jewels.
The Ants in particular become of great interest to me, so through time,I got books, The Journey to the Ants- a story of scientific exploration- and The Insect Societies by Edward O.Wilson,among other books on the subject.
Recently,by coincidence,Miriam Portela, a Brazilian children's book writer,proposed me to illustrate her story about a rebellious ant,who craves for fun and joy and wants to take part of stopping the reigning ongoing chaos on Earth.
The Rebellious Ant, in spirit turns out to be a dreamer,as all rebels seem to be,she loses herself in reveries,wonders in her thoughts and of course does not fit like in like the everyday ant.
Somehow,she sounds quite like some humans.
The interesting side here is,borrowing from The Importance of Social Insects,are the parallels to be drawn and why we study these insects?
Because, together with man,hummingbirds, and the bristlecone pine,they are among the great
achievements of organic evolution.
Their social organization- far less than man's because of the feeble intellect and absence of culture,of course,but far greater in respect to cohesion,caste specialization and individual altruism- is non pareil.
The biologist is invited to consider insect societies because they best exemplify the full sweep of ascending levels of organization, from molecule to society.
Among the tens of thousands of species of wasps,ants,bees and termites, we witness the employment of social design to solve ecological problems ordinarily dealt with by simple organisms.
The insect colony is often called SUPERORGANISM, because it displays so many social phenomena that are analogous to the physiological properties of organs and tissues.
A second reason for singling out social insects, is their ecological dominance on the land.
In most parts of the Earth ants in particular are among the principal predators of other invertebrates.
Their colonies,rooted and perennial like woody plants,send out foragers which comb the terrain day and night.
Their biomass and energy consumption exceed those of invertebrates in most terrestrial habitats.
Social insects are specially prominent in the tropics.
In the seventeenth century,Portuguese settlers called ants the "king of Brazil" and later travelers referred to them with such phrases as " the actual owners of the Amazon Valley" and "the real conquerors of Brazil."
So, Viva! Formiga Power!

Edward O.Wilson is Frank B.Baird Jr. Professor of Science and Curator in Entomology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology,Harvard University.He is the author of Sociobiology: The New Synthesis,Biophilia,On Human Nature, which won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction, and The Diversity of Life. He is coauthor with Bert Holldobler of The Ants, which won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction. His many awards include the National Medal of Science in 1977 and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 1984.

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