The Ants looks at the ecology, evolution, and the behavior of ants in their natural habitats. About a third of this book is taken up by reference material and can be quite difficult to get through. But the other two thirds should keep anyone who has an interest in biology or ants highly engaged.
Chapter one of this book examines the sequence of events involved in the evolutionary development of ants. However, the evolution of ants can also be found throughout the entire work. Similarly, the anatomy of ants is not covered separately but covered where relevant, and ants are connected throughout to general biological and sociological theory.
Although it is not a major focus, certain aspects of human influence and the surprising economic importance of ants is discussed. There are a few opening pages on the importance of ants (unless they’re in your home), which are followed by the least digestible of chunks of work. There are nearly 80 pages of taxonomic keys and sixty pages of line drawings. Throughout the entire book, you can find highly detailed information in the form of tables indicating the distribution of various traits and features among different ant species.
Basically, the entire book falls into two main parts, with the first half covering the important features of the ant life cycle and ecology and the second part covering different ant specializations.
A typical ant colony has a life cycle that consists of nuptial flight and mating, then colony foundation, growth, and movement. However there are many ant species that do not fit into this typical pattern. A critical factor in the social behavior of ants is the level to which ants can recognize kin, ants of the same colony, as well as different brood stages. The patterns of diversity in recognition systems of ants still remain unknown today.
The ergonomic analysis of ant colonies shows a range of roles allocated to different castes. The ant colony workers are subdivided into minors, medias, and majors. There are temporal castes with changing roles over individual ant’s lifespans.
While ants do have the capability of learning to some extent, it is important to consider the colony as a super-organism, with homeostatic responses and flexibility in behavior. A notable example is the thermoregulation of nests and humidity control.
About two hundred pages of The Ants book cover some of the specializations of ants. Three chapters cover ant’s symbiotic relationships and five chapters cover tropic specialization. While ants have predators and parasites, it is important you view the ant colony as an ecosystem for symbioses. On relationships with plants, they are equally varied. Ants offer protection to plants and plants provide shelter to ants in return.
The Ants book has plenty of amazing, highly detailed images throughout the book. Similarly, effective use is made of line diagrams, graphs, and maps to break up the dense biological data. If you find ants interesting or want to learn more about them, you can’t find a better reference material then The Ants.