Myrmecology

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Myrmecology (/mɜrmɨˈkɒləi/; from Greek: μύρμηξ, myrmex, "ant" and λόγος, logos, "study") is the scientific study of ants, a branch of entomology. Some early myrmecologists considered ant society as the ideal form of society and sought to find solutions to human problems by studying them[citation needed]. Ants continue to be a model of choice for the study of questions on the evolution of social systems because of their complex and varied forms of eusociality. Their diversity and prominence in ecosystems also has made them important components in the study of biodiversity and conservation.

History[edit]

The word myrmecology was coined by William Morton Wheeler (1865–1937), although human interest in the life of ants goes back further, with numerous ancient folk references. The earliest scientific thinking based on observation of ant life was that of Auguste Forel (1848–1931), a Swiss psychologist who initially was interested in ideas of instinct, learning, and society. In 1874 he wrote a book on the ants of Switzerland, Les fourmis de la Suisse, and he named his home La Fourmilière (the ant colony). Forel's early studies included attempts to mix species of ants in a colony. He noted polydomy and monodomy in ants and compared them with the structure of nations.[1]

Wheeler looked at ants in a new light, in terms of their social organization, and in 1910 he delivered a lecture at Woods Hole on the “The Ant-Colony as an Organism,” which pioneered the idea of superorganisms. Wheeler considered trophallaxis or the sharing of food within the colony as the core of ant society. This was studied using a dye in the food and observing how it spread in the colony.[1]

Some, such as Horace Donisthorpe, worked on the systematics of ants. This tradition continued in many parts of the world until advances in other aspects of biology were made. The advent of genetics, ideas in ethology and its evolution led to new thought. This line of enquiry was pioneered by E. O. Wilson, who founded the field termed as sociobiology.[1]

Interdisciplinary application[edit]

Ants often are studied by Engineers for Biomimicry and by Network Engineers for more efficient networking. It is not known clearly how ants manage to avoid congestions and how they optimize their movements to move in most efficient ways without a central authority that would send out orders. There already have been many applications in structure design and networking that have been developed from studying ants, but the efficiency of human-created systems is still not close to the efficiency of ant colonies.

List of notable myrmecologists[edit]

Note: Names are listed alphabetically.

Related terms[edit]

  • Myrmecochorous (adj.) dispersed by ants
  • Myrmecophagous (adj.) feeding on ants
  • Myrmecophile (n.) an organism that habitually shares an ant nest, myrmecophilous (adj.), myrmecophily (n.)
  • Myrmidons (n.) ant-men in Metamorphoses and in Homer's Iliad, where they are Achilles' warriors

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Sleigh, Charlotte (2007) Six legs better : a cultural history of myrmecology. The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-8445-4

External links[edit]