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The Leafcutter Ants: Civilization by Instinct

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  99 ratings  ·  14 reviews
emThe Leafcutter Ants/em is the most detailed and authoritative description of any ant species ever produced. With a text suitable for both a lay and a scientific audience, the book provides an unforgettable tour of Earth's most evolved animal societies. Each colony of leafcutters contains as many as five million workers, all the daughters of a single queen that can live o ...more
ebook, 160 pages
Published November 15th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published November 13th 2010)
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great book, pretty accessible, lots of great pictures. does assume a bit much on when it comes to technical biology vocabulary but i didn't feel too bad for not knowing some of the more complex chemicals. if you're at all interested in ants you should read this. cmon it only takes a day. just do it for me.
Over the past few centuries, plenty of thought, ink and celluloid have been devoted to imagining what extraterrestrial civilizations might be like. But when the first human steps out of her spaceship to explore another life-bearing planet, how will she decide when she's truly encountered a new civilization.

The Collins English Dictionary defines civilization thusly:

"a human society that has highly developed material and spiritual resources and a complex cultural, political, and legal organizati
Excellent, excellent, excellent book!! It inspired my speech for Forensics this year! The pictures were amazing, especially of the colonies they filled up with concrete and then excavated, and reading about how young leafcutter ant queens start colonies was mind-blowing.
Meredith Parets
May 15, 2011 Meredith Parets is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Still reading! So far, pretty interesting.
Bill Leach
Chapter 1 "The Ultimate Super-organisms" introduces the social insects. About half of the described animals are insects. While only 2% of the insects are eusocial, they make up 75% of the insect biomass. While the individual ants are not impressive, the super-organism is, being capable of multiple concurrent tasks. Super-colonies of the Formica ant (F. yessensis) in Hokkaido comprise over 300 million workers, a million queens and 45,000 interconnected nests over an area of 2.7 square kilometers. ...more
Farmers in Central America call them zompopos and consider them pests. Unstoppable are they, these leafcutter ants, carrying off little pieces of leaves by the millions, harming crops and ruining harvests.

In this book, Hölldobler and Wilson give us an insider view of the remarkable level of organisation of the leafcutter ants. They show us what happens to these leaf fragments: all bits of plant material are used to cultivate a species of fungus which in turn feeds the ants. That's right; these f
Super sciency but so very interesting. It talks all about the mutualism between the ants and the fungus they farm (and the parasitic microfungus that attacks their crops!) and how they collect the leaves to grow the fungus and how their colonies are organized (up to 7million ants!)
Dorothy O'Connell
Ants are a great study for social organization

Hölldobler and Wilson are the hands-down experts in this field. Their studies of the diversity and adaptability of ant and other insect colonies really challenge ideas of human intelligence as necessary to evolving civilization. Very useful for a student of autopoietic organization in living systems.
This book did not shy away from using proper chemical nomenclature when discussing ant pheromones. This made me remember the organic nomenclature rules I learned a few years back. This had really nice photographs of the ants, providing a view into a different-scale world.
After reading I want to learn even more about ants.
Forrest Horton
Concise and enthralling. Did you know that there are non-human societies that have sophisticated agricultural systems to harvest domesticated species of fungus? Well there are! Everything about leafcutter ants is mindblowing....the queen lives 10 yrs and produces 20 eggs per minute (!) at her prime from a single pouch of sperm...airconditioned nests...communication by goes on and on. Just read the book. It's worth it. (High quality color photos make it imperative to have a good s ...more
Rachel (Sfogs)
Lots to learn from this book!
Really enjoyed it!!
Dave Peticolas
One of nature's most amazing creatures: a leafcutter ant colony.
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Bert Hölldobler is Foundation Professor at Arizona State University and the recipient of numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize. He lives in Arizona and Germany.
More about Bert Hölldobler...
The Ants Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies Tergal and sternal glands in ants. On the metapleural gland of ants.

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