Super Organism

Super OrganismHeres a program from our archives.Ants have been called the most highly evolved insects in the world. Ant colonies have been likened to a collective entity – as if each ant was a cell in a composite organism. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History. ambience: ant stridulations We’re listening to the highly amplified sounds of a colony of ants. Wilson: Biologists in talking about ant colonies use the expression ‘superorganism’ and it’s not empty rhetoric.Edward Wilson is honorary curator in Entomology at Harvard University. Wilson: A colony really is as much like a true organism as it is a society. For one thing, the colony is, in typical species, the set of the offspring of a single queen ant. And because they’re so close genetically, and so tightly knit in their organization, that in many instances they act like tissues or organs of some more fully integrated organism like a dog or a lizard. The specialization of the workers at any given time is sometimes extreme. Some of them do nothing but stand and guard the nest. Others do nothing but nurse the little grub-like larvae that are growing up to produce new ant workers. And still others may do nothing at all but allow their bodies to be used as storage places for food, until the food is needed and then regurgitated to sisters. There’s some extreme specialization involved among the ant workers and in order to make the whole thing work efficiently, these colonies use quite sophisticated chemical signals called pheromones that are the parallels of the hormones used to coordinate organ and tissue activity in our own bodies. This archival program is part of our thirtieth anniversary celebration. If you want hear more, check out our podcast. Im Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet

Super Organism

Individuals members of an ant colony are like cells in a body - each performing a specialized task.
Air Date:08/28/2020
Scientist:
Transcript:

Super OrganismHeres a program from our archives.Ants have been called the most highly evolved insects in the world. Ant colonies have been likened to a collective entity - as if each ant was a cell in a composite organism. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History. ambience: ant stridulations We're listening to the highly amplified sounds of a colony of ants. Wilson: Biologists in talking about ant colonies use the expression 'superorganism' and it's not empty rhetoric.Edward Wilson is honorary curator in Entomology at Harvard University. Wilson: A colony really is as much like a true organism as it is a society. For one thing, the colony is, in typical species, the set of the offspring of a single queen ant. And because they're so close genetically, and so tightly knit in their organization, that in many instances they act like tissues or organs of some more fully integrated organism like a dog or a lizard. The specialization of the workers at any given time is sometimes extreme. Some of them do nothing but stand and guard the nest. Others do nothing but nurse the little grub-like larvae that are growing up to produce new ant workers. And still others may do nothing at all but allow their bodies to be used as storage places for food, until the food is needed and then regurgitated to sisters. There's some extreme specialization involved among the ant workers and in order to make the whole thing work efficiently, these colonies use quite sophisticated chemical signals called pheromones that are the parallels of the hormones used to coordinate organ and tissue activity in our own bodies. This archival program is part of our thirtieth anniversary celebration. If you want hear more, check out our podcast. Im Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet