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Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration

4.44  ·  Rating Details ·  393 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
Hailed as "a masterpiece" by Scientific American and as "the greatest of all entomology books" by Science, Bert Holldobler and Edward O. Wilson's monumental treatise The Ants also was praised in the popular press and won a Pulitzer Prize. This overwhelming success attests to a fact long known and deeply felt by the authors: the infinite fascination of their tiny subjects. ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 21st 1998 by Belknap Press (first published August 5th 1994)
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Roy Lotz
Sep 02, 2014 Roy Lotz rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature-writing
If ants had nuclear weapons, they would probably end the world in a week.

One of the best classes I ever took was taught by an entomologist. You couldn’t walk more than a few feet with him without coming across something fascinating. Every square inch of soil, every rock and branch, every type of environment—however seemingly barren—be it desert or riverine, was shown to be packed with little animated beings, scurrying about. The life of an entomologist is enviably interesting.

Of the innumerabl
May 01, 2010 Adam rated it it was amazing
Journey to the Ants is THE indispensable and, as far as I know unparalleled book for myrmecophiles. Wilson's and Holldobler's prose is exceedingly clear, untechnical, and personal. Their passion for the realities of ant biology and ethology (as complemented by the isolated scientific knowledge thereof) makes every page alive. There is a LOT of really really cool stuff in this book.

Reading about the complexity and interesting permutations of ant behavior made me realize how little human justifica
Jul 24, 2011 Dеnnis rated it really liked it
You'll learn a lot from this extremely interesting book. But first - couple of quotes.

- It can be said that while human societies send their young men to war, weaver-ant societies send their old ladies.

- If ants had nuclear weapons, they would probably end the world in a week.

In this book however you'll not only learn about the art of ant war, like:
* Home turf matters - majority of battles are won on fields where future victors' droppings prevail.
* They seal defenders in their nests, spraying th
Keenan Johnston
Jan 05, 2016 Keenan Johnston rated it really liked it
I'm now full of facts for the rest of my life about ants. I had no idea how old the ant species is, and how social their world is. Worth the read but a few of my favorite learnings:

There are basically no male ants in a colony - they serve no purpose other than reproduction and die shortly after

Each colony is spawned from the same queen mother, so essentially the colony is full of daughters

Ants wage wars on other colonies, and are extremely territorial

One ant species has the fastest twitch muscle
Feb 20, 2009 Huyen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biology-brain
I was reading this article on superorganism on the internet the other day and saw Bert Holldobler and found out he wrote a 1000-page Pulitzer-winning tome on ants. That’s pretty impressive and gives me enough excuse to read this random book. Also my time in Australia made me fascinated by these tiny, apparently mindless creatures running about and organizing extremely efficient societies and evolutionary machines. And this is definitely a wonderful and exciting book that anyone remotely interest ...more
Fraser Kinnear
Mar 15, 2015 Fraser Kinnear rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
So freaking cool.

Dozens of different ant species are profiled to highlight hundreds of cool facts, along with detailed pictures for context.

Some examples:

The Odontomachus bauri's jaw mandible is the fastest of any anatomical structure in the animal kingdom, moving at 8.5 meters per second (if human sized, that would be the same as a fist swinging at 3 km/s, which is faster than a rifle bullet). These mandibles are triggered by the largest nerve axons in the animal kingdom (larger size allows f
Andrej Karpathy
Nov 05, 2012 Andrej Karpathy rated it really liked it
Journey to the Ants paints a very interesting picture of an ant colony as an intricate super-organism in which individual ants are only small, dispensable, fairly mechanical and easily replaceable walking batteries of exocrine glands that sense their world primarily through array of chemical words, touch, sound, and very poor vision in some cases. The fascinating image I take away from this book is that the colony is the individual, and every ant is like a protein flowing through the veins of th ...more
Juan Hidalgo
Jun 14, 2013 Juan Hidalgo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoritos
Pocas veces se concede el premio Pulitzer al autor de un libro de divulgación científica y los artífices de este son una de esas raras excepciones. El libro está descatalogado desde hace años y me costó Dios y ayuda conseguir un ejemplar de segunda mano en papel, que pude localizar finalmente en una librería de Jaén y comprar a través de Internet. Su lectura es fascinante, amena, instructiva. Sus contenidos sorprendentes y maravillosos, a poco que te guste la naturaleza y que te apasione la vida ...more
Apr 01, 2007 nathaniel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, favorites
Ants are really, really strange--but strangely familiar. For instance, the decomposing body of a dead ant emits a chemical that prompts other ants to carry the body to the colony garbage heap. If you put that chemical on a living ant, other ants treat it like a corpse, and drag it to the garbage heap over and over again. I can relate to that. The NY Giants have been dragging me to the garbage heap for about twenty five years.
Reza Wahadj
Mar 12, 2013 Reza Wahadj rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reza-shelf
Beyond imagination, stunning the degree of social complexity achieved by such small brains.
Definitely made me consider altruism and conflict in terms of genetics and social survival.
However, the real catch is the author's passion about their subject.
I would recommend that everyone read at least part of this book
Dec 20, 2008 Karen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bug-stuff
Hell yeah!! Journey to the motherfuckin ANTS!!
Mar 09, 2017 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2017, science
I have always been a bit of a junior entomologist, so when my boy got an ant farm for his birthday, I just had to find out more about ants. This book was just what I needed. Geared to the general public, this book had just the right level of detail to be highly interesting but not overwhelming. It was comprehensive and scientific while still being very readable. While I won't amaze (or bore) you with the details here, anyone who has been around me recently can tell you that I have learned so man ...more
Jun 12, 2013 J.T. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an exploration into all aspects of ant life, written for general readers. Holldobler and Wilson, who wrote the massive scientific reference volume, The Ants, felt that there was also a demand for a less formal book about ants that ordinary readers might enjoy reading from cover-to-cover. In this book, they describe not only the lives of ants and ant colonies, but also how their own interests in ants developed. The book covers such topics as the dominance of ants, the life and death ...more
Bart Van
Feb 24, 2017 Bart Van rated it it was amazing
A scientific journey by myrmecologist accessible for non scientists... really enjoy reading this book!
Sep 26, 2015 David rated it it was amazing
Gracious, what a treat is it to follow these two scientists in their presentation of ants, ant colonies, ant life and death, their social colonies, their communication, conflicts, migration, in all their variance and complexity and fascination. Some are minutely detailed such as "How ants communicate." Some are more global about the ant world, such as "How ants control their environment." And then one pops up as if we entered a zoo, the coverage being "The strangest ants" which is eye-popping an ...more
Feb 09, 2017 Joeydag rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful photos, amazing stories about working with ants in the field, deep speculations about ecology and evolution.
May 23, 2012 Jamie rated it liked it
Shelves: nature
Very interesting. Like all other forms of life, ants are fascinating. I learned a lot about: the diversity of ants; what makes colonial life (eusociality) so powerful (along with some of its drawbacks); why eusociality may have evolved in the first place (and about when that evolution took place); that among professional biologists there are naturalists and non-naturalists; and many, many other tidbits.

What I didn't like so much was the writing style. For example, too much time was wasted on say
Aug 06, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I picked this up at the library in order to prepare for a presentation I had to give on army ants. I planned on just skimming the sections covering army ants, but ended up getting sucked into it. Ants are oddly fascinating little creatures. I got so into it I actually read it by flood light in my friends drive way while they worked on a plumbing issue. I kept reading portions aloud to them, but I don't think they found the ants as intriguing as I did. I did appreciate having read the book when I ...more
Jun 26, 2012 Plucino rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature
"A popularized account of a 1991 Pulitzer-winning encyclopedia"

After the mastodontic, hard-going and Pulitzer-winning "The Ants", Hölldobler and Wilson had put together a shorter, manageable and lavishly illustrated volume, "Journey to the Ants".
Here, they explore the most interesting aspects of the lives of ants (and of the people who study them, known as myrmecologists).
Some of the covered topics are: evolution, communication, symbionts, parasites and predators.

I first purchased this book when Tom was in 7th grade and was fascinated by ants (and spent time in the driveway with a magnifying glass burning some..) The writing is wonderful. The biology of ants is fantastical. Nonfiction is always a slow read for me- a few pages each night. I liked how the authors organized the chapters on themes and then gave multiple examples using ant species from diverse habitats. E.O. Wilson is my academic hero--he is the ultimate natural historian.
Jun 24, 2012 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
It's simply beyond belief how complex, varied and sophisticated these little social beasts are, and the authors do a splendid job describing not only the ants themselves but also how the research is carried out, both in the field and in the lab. I'm sure I'm going to hurt myself because I now walk around the kibbutz with my eyes fixed firmly on the ground, looking for ants. It will change your life. Read this book!
Dec 15, 2014 Cade rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
This is an excellent book. It describes many fascinating features of ant behavior. The style tends to focus on an species that exemplifies a certain behavior and then elaborating/qualifying more briefly by discussing ways in which that behavior is shared or modified in other species. This book is sophisticated enough to be read by any thoughtful person but simple enough to be enjoyed by someone as young as a middle schooler.
Susan Keller
Oct 19, 2014 Susan Keller rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
I am sure my science teachers did the best they could with the textbooks they add. But, oh boy! If I had had this book in high school, I might be a biologist today. Besides having some lines that made me laugh out loud, "Journey" was endlessly fascinating and added to the respect I have for the relentless parades of ants that invaded the house all last summer.
Nov 28, 2010 Bernie rated it it was amazing
This is a great book, even if you don't care about ants. It is all you wanted to know (perhaps more) about ants, but the real catch is the author's passion about their subject. I would recommend that everyone read at least part of this book
Apr 19, 2008 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fantastic introduction to the world of ants. Co-authored by the famous E.O. Wilson, the passion for these tiny social insects is palpable and contagious. A great read for anyone interested in eusociality, evolutionary biology, the hive mind, or just ants.
Hom Sack
May 13, 2015 Hom Sack rated it it was amazing
Just fascinating. I didn't realize how interesting ants are. Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson did a great job telling their story. I will have to visit the Museum of Comparative Zoology ( soon to learn more.
Mar 03, 2009 Jen rated it it was amazing
Awesome, awesome, awesome book. Great book to flip through and look at pictures, grab random facts from when you're bored. It helps that I really, really love ants.

It should be noted that this book is a summary of all the best bits of their much more detailed book, The Ants.
Mar 12, 2008 Mlindsey rated it liked it
Recommended to Mlindsey by: Mike Laus
Absolutely stunning the degree of social complexity achieved by such small brains. Definitely made me consider altruism and conflict in terms of genetics and social survival. Just amazing. Seems like I'd be smarter and more productive given how much larger my brain is, compared to these guys...
Jun 26, 2012 Eric rated it it was amazing
Everything you ever wondered about ants and so much more. Check out his TED talk as well.
Jan 08, 2010 Meg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I never knew that ants were as fascinating as this book makes them seem.
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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...

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