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"Peopling" is such a funny word.

I'm currently writing about the "anting" of the great landmasses of Myrmecos some 180,000 years ago. There are many species of "ant people" but they share 6 common ancestors ... and the first to leave the tropical region called Tato and spread over Myrmecos were the many Bull Ants with their large eyes and long mandibles. Then some 120k years ago the ancestors of Carpenter Ants, with their talent for earthworks and carving spread over Myrmecos. In wave after wave the planet was populated colonies of by several 100 varied species of ant.

Part of the fun in this story is imagining what the many different species of ants would do if they had more technology, language, complex culture. So, to that end, they are all analogs of real earth species of ants.

The early years of ant civilization were full of wars and conflict. Ants have been often said to love few things more than war, and it is this period in their history that gave them this reputation: The Age of War. But, the modern space-faring ant colonies of Central City are proud of the peace and cooperation they have built despite this history. Indeed they are in some ways ashamed of that period in their past, while still managing to be a little smug when talking to humans "So, you are the only species of people on your planet? What happened to the Neanderthals and the others?"

Obviously, it's kind of hard to imagine Homo sapiens sapiens living with all the other lineages of Homo sapiens (eg. homo sapiens neanderthalensis, Homo sapiens denisovan etc.) We can hardly put up with each other as it is! So, how do the ants do it? How do they accommodate the differences in biology, size, culture, diet and thinking? Every ant has a colony. (unless something has gone very wrong) Ants do not need to struggle to define and enforce the boundaries of cultural identities-- this makes them more adept at cross species alliances.

The ants had one other massive advantage when it came to ending The Age of War and building a tolerant, if not harmonious society: all pheromone languages are largely mutually intelligible. Ants from far flung colonies, with very different biology can generally communicate with each other at least at the pheromone level.

But, this peace and cooperation were still hard-won. During The Age of War an entire genus of ants: The Driver Ants, were so different in the ways they lived and made war that the other species of ants worked together to reduce their numbers to extinction. This is seen as an embarrassing, moment in ant history. Genocide is always ugly. The ants of Central City sometimes succumb to attempts to rationalize the crime... "The Driver ants weren't like us, they are all blind you see, they had a very different language-- and they simply never built anything permanent. They were nomads living in structures made of their own bodies." But, justifying a genocide only makes it even more evil. The more enlightened city ants, simply avoid talking about the Drivers at all--

But, here is the thing: The Driver ants aren't really extinct.

It's a very Lost World situation.

What I'm struggling with is that it feels unrealistic that the city ants would not know this. Myrmecos has one huge city, surrounded by satellite cities, industry and farms. Ant colonies of every known intelligent species live in this great city. Ants don't really bother with "nations" -- and with the exception of the Drivers they have all always spoken the same pheromone language. But, how could an advanced people be taken by surprise by the sudden re-emergence of an entire other species of person on their own planet? It's like if bigfoot were real on earth... What are some cultural features of the ants, or structural features of the planet that could make this plasible?

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  • $\begingroup$ "Living with all the other species": If anatomically modern humans are H. sapiens sapiens and you are calling the Neanderthals H. sapiens neanderthalensis this means that you are recognizing that they were the $\rightarrow$same species$\leftarrow$ as us. If you are of the opinion that they were a different species, then the name is H. neanderthalensis, with no sapiens. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 17, 2023 at 11:48
  • $\begingroup$ They were closely related enough to us to have children with us. I'm not an expert on human evolution, my only point is that there are no "other species" of people on earth -- but on Myrmecos they have many very very different species of ants. What we'd classify as different genuses. $\endgroup$
    – futurebird
    Jun 17, 2023 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ My point is that first you call them "other species" and then you assign to them names which make them the same species as us. It is inconsistent. If they are other species, then their names are H. neanderthalensis and H. denisova. If their names are H. sapiens neanderthalensis and H. s. denisova then they are not other species. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 17, 2023 at 11:54
  • $\begingroup$ Is there a scientific consensus about the term species that is that precise? Anyway I changed it. $\endgroup$
    – futurebird
    Jun 17, 2023 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ There is centuries old consensus about names. Names of species, whatever meaning is assigned to the word species, have two parts: a genus name and a specific epithet; for example Ursus arctos, the brown bear. Names of subspecies, again whatever meaning is assigned to the word subspecies, have three parts: a genus name, a specific epithet, and a subspecies identifier; for example, Ursus arctos horribilis, the grizzly bear, a subspecies of brown bear. When you called the Neanderthals Homo sapiens neanderthalensis you made them a subspecies of Homo sapiens. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 17, 2023 at 12:46

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Ants' recognition system is based on pheromones not facial recognition like people. This allows large blue butterfly larvae to pretend they are ants, get taken into the nest, loved & cared for. And then to devour their hosts' grubs. Perhaps Driver ants werent made extinct, but went underground & hid in plain site via pheremone tech. Something obvious visually to a visiting human, but baffling to an ant. "Oh, no Andy is an average ant like the rest of us." "Why's he have no eyes, green stripes & facial tatoos then ?" "And why did he just eat Dave?" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Large_blue

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