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The Intelligence of Ants
Apes and monkeys are generally supposed to be intelligent in a certain way. Dolphins are also counted in the category of intelligent animals. However, have you ever thought of the humble ant being intelligent? The world of the ant is sufficiently complicated to suggest some sparks of intelligence in this lowly member of the animal kingdom.
Ants repel attackers, store food, and use chemical signals to contact one another. The chemical communication that ants are capable of is comparable to human use of auditory and visual channels, to arouse and propagate moods and attitudes. The biologist Lewis Thomas wrote that ants are so much like human beings that it is an embarrassment to us. They use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, exchange information continuously, farm fungi, launch armies to war, capture slaves, and raise aphids as livestock.
Some people interested in the field say that in the case of agriculture, human beings are much ahead of ants. However, is this really true? The farming methods of ants are sustainable. They do not harm the environment, or use tremendous amounts of energy. Ants became farmers almost fifty million years before humans. Ants cannot digest the cellulose in leaves, so they cultivate the fungi that can digest these leaves, and then use them as source of food. Farmer ants can even secrete antibiotics to control other fungi that might function as ‘weeds’. All this suggests highly sophisticated systems of intelligence.
However, one important difference between ants and human beings is that there is no cultural transmission of values and traditions among ants. In ants, everything is encoded in genes that are passed from generation to generation, but in humans, only the basic instincts are carried in the genes of the newborn. All other skills are learnt from others in the community, as the child grows up. Thus, it is cultural continuity that gives us a huge advantage over ants.
Given below are some statements based on the passage. Write T if the statement agrees with the information given in the passage. Write F if it contradicts. Write NOT GIVEN if there is no information given.
- Ants use the same channels of communication as humans do.
- Human babies have all information necessary for life in their genes.
- Farming methods of ants are sustainable.
- There are some fungi that can digest cellulose in leaves.
- Ants are more intelligent than human beings.