Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Creature Feature: Argentine Ants.

No matter how advanced humans get or how much we spawn, insects will always outdo us. They spawn faster, evolve faster, and several species are remarkably social. Hell, now, they've even caught up in the invasive species department. We thought we had that market cornered.

First, a reminder: Ants are already secretly terrifying, and not just when they happen to be on your food. They are the only animals aside from humans (and maybe chimps) that wage war. They also have livestock in the form of aphids and agriculture in the form of fungi. These little insects are so much like us that it's uncanny. They're almost idealized as hard workers that are so driven to work that they are all but born into a caste. This is eusocial? Creepy.

The Argentine ant takes the creepiness up another few levels. It is a dark ant native to Brazil, Ecuador, and, of course, Argentina. Now, they can be found on every continent except Antarctica (y'know, the only continent with "ant" in its name). They probably spread via human transport, but "alien conspiracy" would not surprise us, either. They're ants, so they'll eat whatever's around.

If you thought Japanese beetles were bad, they have nothing on the invasive power of Argentine ants.  These ants have spread to every area willing to accommodate them. All it takes is ten workers and a single queen to churn out a whole colony. Since these are ants we're talking about, they are also perfectly capable of displacing current ant species, making the Argentine officially the One Ant to Rule Them All. People worry about culture becoming homogenized; these ants are already most of the way there.

You know what's even creepier? Every single Argentine ant colony outside of Argentina is genetically related. Scientists have taken ants from Europe and mixed them with Asian and North American colonies with no ill results. Go ahead, try this with humans (even triplets who had to separate for some reason). The result will not be this clean.

Also, if you happen to have a problem with these ants...too bad. Pesticides make the queen lay more eggs. There also tend to be many queens. Congratulations, Argentine ants: you have officially taken over the world. Way to beat Pinkie and the Brain to the punch.

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