Ants help us learn more about human society


(pulsating music) – It’s important to study
ants because they’re great model social systems. They live in complex societies. That’s great, because humans
also live in complex societies. By studying ants, we can
potentially learn some things about human societies. (pulsating music) We study the behavior of ants to get at the function and evolution
of complex societies. (pulsating music) When you first look at
a colony, it may look like the ants are all
doing the same thing, but in fact, there is a lot
of variation in what ants do. There are individuals not doing much; there’s individuals doing a lot, and they do progress
through different tasks. (pulsating music) What individuals do doesn’t
just depend on, say, their own genes; it also
depends on the genes of their nest mate. You can’t just take an
individual out of a colony and expect it to behave normally. Everything it does depends
on the colony context, and it depends on the genotype
of its social partners. It really is a complex social system. (pulsating music) Humans have been living
in complex societies for only several thousands of years, whereas ants have been
living in complex societies for over 100 million years. Features have had time to
evolve in ant societies that haven’t had time to
evolve in human societies. For example, all societies have to deal with disease pressure. Ant societies also have
those issues, but they’ve had over 100 million years
for traits to evolve that prevent the spread of diseases. By studying things like disease
resistance in ant societies, we might gain insight into
mechanisms that humans could use. (pulsating music) The next time someone sees
an ant, if you’re tempted to squash it, think
about how it’s a member of a larger society, just like we are, and how that particular ant
is doing different roles in that society. (pulsating music)

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