Supercolonies Act as Organism

by Irma Arkus

Do you know what is the largest civilization on Earth?

First, let me first assure you, it is not human, but rather a recently discovered ant colony.

What was touted as a first confirmed “supercolony” were related ants living in colonies that spanned miles across North and South America, Europe and even parts of Asia. Scientists determined that the ants are part of a larger body because they “recognized” members from different colonies as relatives, rather than engage in war-like response reserved for those who were considered other.

But now, the scientists say that it is not only nickel particles that once assembled start to behave like a rather predatory organism. The supercolonies too behave in these patterns, resembling a living biological organism.

When conducting an analysis of some 168 species of ants at University of Florida, it has been found that while members maintain a certain “individuality” as a collective group, a colony, they tend to organize themselves in such a way to suggest a “superorganism.”

What is a super-organism anyways?

Well, according to the researchers, these superorganisms very much correspond to life, development and behaviour of an individual. Essentially, if one is to undestand the actions of colonies that have captured our imagination for millenia, then perhaps undestanding them as a singular is the key (and this is where I fondly harken back to Greg Bear’s “Slant”)

Once more, the research applies to not only ants, but bees, termites, and wasps. The findings will be offering a new, fresh perspective on how societies evolve and develop, perhaps most importantly, giving us new tools to learn about humans, or…that superhuman organism? ([ufl]

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  • Anonymous

    Not to be picky but.. the “Universe of Florida?” Sounds pretty crazy!!

  • irma

    ugh. spelling errors that make me laugh! thanks for the tip.

  • Bionic Groin

    Before people started applying terms like “superorganism” to populations of organisms, people were describing eusociality in hymenoptera and even mammals for decades. If you want to expand the scope beyond a single species but to a system of organisms then you basically get the field of ecology, which examines interactions between and within populations. If you want to look at it this way then all life is a superorganism whose purpose is to retain energy from the sun and build high energy structures on the surface of the planet.

  • irma

    Greg Bear had a kickass concept in computing (I think it was in “Slant”) where he describes a hyper-bio-engineered world. the kind that has slave girls altered to exhibit multiple vaginal openings all over their bodies. In this world, the protagonist tramples upon an organic biosphere (I guess a la Douglas Adams too) where an ant colony, combined with other insects and animals in a biosphere, are combined as a giant computing machine.

  • Anonymous

    that’s pretty cool. my friends have been nagging me to start reading more bear, but now I actually HAVE TO!!!