LONDON (Reuters) - January 11th 2006
British researchers said on Wednesday
they had uncovered the first proof of teaching in non-human
animals -- ants showing each other the way to food.
The ants studied over two years by scientists from Bristol
University used a technique known as tandem running -- one ant
led another ant from the nest to a food source.
It was a genuine case of teaching as ant leaders observed
by Professor Nigel Franks and Tom Richardson slowed down if the
follower got too far behind. If the gap got smaller, they then
Tandem leaders also paid a penalty, because they would have
reached the food four times faster if they had gone alone. But
teaching had its advantages -- the follower ant then learned
much more quickly where the food source was.
Information then flows through the ant colony when
followers are promoted to leaders and the teaching process
starts all over again.
"Teaching isn't merely mimicry. It involves the teacher
modifying its behavior in the presence of a naive observer at
some initial cost to itself," said Franks, who reported the
findings in the journal Nature.
"We think real teaching involves a lot of feedback. This is
to our knowledge the first example of formal teaching in
non-human animals," he told Reuters.
"What's nice about this demonstration is that the ant is an
animal with a small brain. The human brain is a million times
larger and yet the ant is very good at teaching and learning."
ant colony is an animal. The number of 'transistor' equivalent switches
in an ant is very small. The ant brain is spread throughout the colony.
Soul of the White Ant.
will add to this page in due course. Current orthodox science does not
understand human consciousness for the same reason it does not
understand ant colonies. It's really not that hard.
AUGUST 31st 2009
It has taken 3 and a half years but now is the moment I was waiting
for. Bridget Kendall hosted a good discussion on Super-organisms on the
BBC World Service programme "The Forum". Progress was made, but we need
more. I know Bridget will not mind me including here a memo I wrote to
her after hearing her excellent programme (I have removed my original
You got some way with your discussion about Super-Organisms yesterday
(at least I think I listened to it yesterday). You asked all the right
questions, until you got some answers, but then you went back and asked
them again always wanting a simple, one dimensional answer to a
"Should we behave more like ants?" you asked, not content with just
the advantages in labour division and co-operation that we see in a
You are looking at this on the wrong scale. We are not the equivalent
unit of an ant. An ant is the 'cell' or neurone of a super organism.
individually, are the analogue of the whole colony.
A human brain is not a single individual unit of action on the level of
an ant. We 'make up our mind' when we are awake, and our mind makes up
itself in our subconscious. I will leave the collective subconscious on
one side for the moment.
An ant does not know fear or panic, a colony can know fear and it can
act as if in panic. An ant can receive signals from the colony to
it act in all sorts of way and degrees.
The human brain-body is a super-organism. It's components are fixed in
a more restricted way than a colony. It has limbs that carry out its
motive requirements - they are our arms, hands, fingers, arms, legs and
We lose bits of these daily and they are replaced without is even
knowing. A colony can lose ants without any problem in the same way. If
a pregnant human loses its fertilised egg, that is analogous to a
losing a queen. Perhaps replaceable, but its a bigger deal.
Colonies can lose whole limbs. We can lose whole limbs and as yet not
be able to regrow them.
We in turn are part of a super-super-organism. To some extent we have
here as to membership, in other ways not. The extent depends on the
level of civilization and understanding we have reached. The level to
which we can draw on the resources of the super-super-organism(s) of
which we are members depends on us as well as the organisms.
A study of sponges is useful to get a grip on early history of
cooperation. A study of Theology is good but more likely to confuse.
Rather like asking a sponge what it is, parts of it may not know and
the bit that thinks collectively and communicates is not formed.
I will stop here for now....
However, the answer to your question: "Should we behave more like
ants?" is absolutely YES, and absolutely NO.
Hence: "Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise".
It means what it says, not what you want it to say.