Mark Moffett

I’m a jungle guy, I don’t know how to use this electrical stuff sometimes. 1 frog can kill 500 people. I licked it on Conan O’brian. Today I’m going to talk about ants, I grew up looking at ants, I just keep looking. This is a bulldog ant, and can leap up and catch honeybees in mid-air. Going to talk about the relationships between ant societies and human societies. Some are very tiny, like 10-20 individuals. I call this the swiss army ant and it has a very specialized face, basically a toolchest built into their faces and to do everything on their own. They’re egalitarian, everyone can do anything. (Except the queen, which is the exception in all ant societies.)

Tempo. Some towns people walk around slow and easy, in NYC it’s a race. Same thing with ants. Slowest ant is the mud ant, it chases snails in super slow-motion. You speed up things as they get bigger. We go faster in bigger cities because we learn more, same thing with ants, they learn from the streams as they go through. You look at a big society, you see ants going the wrong direction sometimes. Error in big societies can lead to innovation.

Communications. Smaller societies are simpler communications, one ant will lead another to the food. The army ants of Africa, had swarms of these coming at me that are 100 feet wide with millions of ants. In these situations there’s a huge amount of redundancy. They don’t tie up cows in Africa because the army ants can kill them, they wander around with good reasons. There are beetles that pretend to be ants.

Specialization. Bigger socities get a lot more division of labor. They send the “cheap” ants first, the bigger ants come later, they’re 500x the size of the smaller ones. Lake Tahoe is the center for ant slaver in the US.

Assembly lines & teamwork. A big one starts dragging a piece of food, and a smaller one comes under it and picks up the end. There are other ants that serve as living roadfill, they lie down in the holes along the way. Ultimate assembly line is leaf-cutter ants, they take the leaves back to the nest and then grow fungus. They mash it up and different sized ants do different duties until it gets reduced to a pulp and they plant. They do everything human farmers do, including antibiotics, pesticides, fertalizer. Leaf-cutter ants will bury their garbage in a container the size of a human casket 20 feet down, they also put diseased organisms down there, the workers that do that are the old ones that are going to die soon anyway. They used to grow fungus on stones, about 10 million years ago they figured out to grow it on leaves and now the fungus is no longer biodiverse so it’s vulnerable to disease just like we have.

Infrastructure. They have nests 40 feet wide, underground beltways between the nests.

Warfare. Ants and humans are the only species with long-term warfare. You work out things with your neighbor until you have a no-ant-zone between you where no ant will tread. This is the terrorist ant from ??? it literal blows up when another ant approaches it, explodes and exudes this poisonous liquid. Army ants are so good at killing they have a sort of detente, but they’re civilized in that they won’t kill each other. Honey ants in American Southwest checking out each other’s size out, they look at each other and whoever is bigger wins.

The Argentine ant extends from San Francisco all the way down to Mexico. It’s a single social unit. If you go to the right suburb of San Diego, this is a pile of ants going on continously, million of ants are dying every day there are no truces, they just keep killing each other in the backyards of these houses and appear to have been doing so for about 100 years.

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