7
$\begingroup$

I would argue that ants are one of the most dangerous, effective and successful creatures on earth. But as we know they are not the dominant form of life. They also vary through-out their many species; some have potent venom while others even have acid. Many species are ferocious beasts alone but their true strength lies in numbers. The only true thing even able to wipe out a whole colony is Cordyceps.

Despite this they are not the dominant life form on earth, at least in the we are, but like robo-cop; We can rebuild them, bigger and better. What can I do to Legionary Ants (more commonly called Army Ants) to make them as dominant and successful as humanity?

$\endgroup$
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ What's your definition of dominant? In many ways they are the dominant species, we just like to believe we're at the top of the pyramid. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Apr 7 '16 at 6:13
  • $\begingroup$ A spinoff of "Mimic" ? $\endgroup$ – Erik vanDoren Apr 7 '16 at 12:11
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I agree with @CortAmmon For instance, if your definition of dominant is total bio-mass, ants have us beat. They certainly have us beat in terms of numbers, and they certainly have us beat in terms of how long they've existed in roughly the same form. Even in terms of power to destroy one another they might be considered to be on equal footing as us if you look at the unstoppable spread of fire ants in the south of the US. $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Apr 7 '16 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Shufflepants I disagree. Humans are the dominant species. We are most intelligent and "strongest". I'm willing to bet we can kill a lot more of them than they can us. And we pose more of a danger to them than they do to us. We can survive in more places. I'd say staying in the same form is not really an indicator of being dominant. It merely means they've reached a state at which there is little pressure to change. And humans are changing primarily because are lives are so easy we can devot so much to technology. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Apr 8 '16 at 13:28
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ By the ecological definition of 'dominant', ants ARE dominant on the planet earth: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominance_(ecology) $\endgroup$ – Shufflepants Apr 8 '16 at 15:36
9
$\begingroup$

Have the individual ants function as neurons in a mind that is made up of the entire hive. The intelligence is distributed throughout the entire hive and would work at the speed of pheromones (unless you want to alter the ants to have some kind of faster sonic or electrical communication). With an intelligence driving a hive the ants would be able to work much faster, solve problems and use more efficient hunting and gathering techniques, as opposed to the sweeping patterns they use normally.

Such a mind would probably be incredible alien when compared to ours, and in credibly driven. The loss of an individual ant wouldn't affect it (any more than losing a single neuron would affect us) but large-scale loss could affect the hive's 'brain power'.

Give the damn things an internet connection and who knows what this hive of inteli-ants might get up to.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ no wonder your handle is "evilscary". I was imagining this happening, as I read your answer, and had to stop and tell myself it is not possible in a soothing voice, otherwise I was going to need a change of shorts. $\endgroup$ – user11864 Apr 7 '16 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ This is actually what ants are right now. $\endgroup$ – user8976 Jan 18 '17 at 14:26
3
$\begingroup$

Well, one simple way would be to provide them with the main thing that makes humans so dominant in the world: an intelligence. Not just a collective intelligence which allows them to live and function as a hive; nor a rudimentary intelligence, like leaf-cutter ants that harvest fungi from pieces of leaf or other species that have an arsenal of 'weaponry'; but a true, independent intelligence. You could even differentiate between a true ant and a smart-ant, where maybe normal ants live their normal lives whereas a smart-ant is able to communicate with humans (or any other sentient life-form) and thus rules over and commands the normal ants.

An independent intelligence, such as humans have (or maybe even a few decades ahead of humans) may allow such insects to rule a technologically-advanced society, which would probably put them higher than humans. With respect to population, they already outnumber humans, so of course, the main underlying problem would still be their individual size...

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ "Dominance" in ecology does not necessarily imply intelligence. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 7 '16 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael Well, perhaps not. But it does make sense that humans are dominant, primarily because of their intelligence. In the past before humans, it is the smarter, more adaptable animals that survive and sustain, not the 'duller' ones that are less intelligent and thus get eaten. Yes, size may be the main issue, but the giant woolly mammoth could also be beat by smarter humans (of that time) as humans had the intelligence to make and use weapons. Currently, humans can also use the internet and machines, that unintelligent animals cannot. $\endgroup$ – ASH-Aisyah Apr 7 '16 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ You are making the mistake of assuming that "dominance" in ecology confers something that is necessarily and unquestionably "better" according to some metric. It does not; it's only about numbers. You are also making the mistake of assuming that "intelligence" (for some definition thereof) is necessarily "better" also according to some metric. High intelligence has a very high (metabolic) cost. If high intelligence does not result in a sufficiently increased ability to procreate, there is no reason why it would develop and be maintained in an environment of strong selective pressure. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 7 '16 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm, actually, it's not so much numbers as biomass, I thought? There may be a thousand ants in front of me, but because I have more mass than they do, I have more biomass, and thus, I am more dominant. $\endgroup$ – ASH-Aisyah Apr 7 '16 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ The presence of intelligence may not necessarily be 'better', case in point: humans, who are destroying the world around them... But if an ant species is to be more dominant, the presence of intelligence would definitely give them an edge over other larger species. Also, procreation is not the only solution. With a higher level of intelligence, ants could keep themselves alive better, finding better and more food, and avoid getting squashed by larger animals (including us). Procreation may stay at the same level, but mortality rates would go down with a higher intelligence. $\endgroup$ – ASH-Aisyah Apr 7 '16 at 15:30
3
$\begingroup$

The Argentine ant appears well on its way towards conquering the world. When introduced to new areas (generally by hitching rides on humans transportation) they steadily out-compete other ants and form super colonies that spread across hundreds, or even thousands, of square miles. At least one of these super-colonies has a population exceeding 1 Trillion ants, and there are several of them scattered across the globe.

These ants are considered to be a pest. If the Argentine ants instead ate grain rather than other insects, they would directly benefit from the food production efficiency of the human race and would likely cause serious problems for the humans while their growth rate likely bumped up by several factors.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, you know there is a trans continental super colony? $\endgroup$ – Aarthew III Apr 8 '16 at 1:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ True. At least 3 of the individual super colonies are actually considered to be a single super (super duper?) colony. $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Apr 8 '16 at 3:18
2
$\begingroup$

You can engineer a virus that will target ants and make them capable of these things :

  • Abandon living underground.
  • Craving for all sorts of flesh.
  • Become aggressive.
  • Coordinate with other ant types.
  • Accelerate the breeding process (many queens in one hive).
$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

I'd say that there are two ways to go about it depending on your definition of a 'dominant species':

1) Human-like control over the environment- in order to mold the environment to their will in the way that humans currently do ants would need a larger degree of intelligence (possibly building on their existing hive structures) and a comprehension of tool use. Greater size might also help manipulate elements of the natural world but existing ant colonies achieve feats of tunnel creation and resource collection despite their diminutive stature.

2) Apex position in a favourable environment- plenty of animals have attained a position as top predators or an ability to out-compete most other lifeforms without distorting their environments to the extent that humans have done. Ants are often easily consumed due to their small size so you would probably need larger, more ferocious ants or less large predators to feed upon them. In terms of environment a tropical 'hot house' Earth would favour ants as they are more active in warm conditions and many species thrive in well vegetated climates.

Arguably ants have gone further than many other animals towards both goals. Their nest creation and caste specialisation gives them a degree of control over their environment and the tools to deal with a variety of resources and challenges. As far as adaptation to the global environment goes they have a large combined biomass and can be found on nearly every continent.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

The naive approach would consist in making them bigger, but it would require you to redesign too many things to be credible if you want to stick to biological plausability. However you can consider that the individuals of the species are composed of several micro-organisms (what are commonly called ants), as human bodies have several cells working together. The difference will be that ants are still able to live a few days even after being split from their "body", which is completely an advantage. Whith this increase in size, ants will be able to have a wider range of observation, and plan things on a larger scale.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.