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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Myrmecology

Myrmecology, a branch of entomology, is the study of ants that has focused on many factors about ants, including evolution and social systems. William Morton Wheeler first used the term myrmecology, but the study of ants predates the usage of the term, going back to ancient references of ants. Auguste Forel, a Swiss psychologist, conducted the first scientific studies of ants, focusing on the roles of instinct and learning in a society. He published Les fourmis de la Suisse in 1874 after studying the behavior of ants when other species were introduced into the colony. Because of his studies, it was found that some ants could live in multiple colonies, while others could only live in one.

In 1910, William Morton Wheeler chose to focus on the social structure of ant colonies, delivering a lecture at the Woods Hole known as “The Ant-Colony as an Organism.” This lecture included ideas about superorganisms and trophallaxis, which Wheeler thought to the pillar of an ant colony. Other myrmecologists studied the systematics of ants, like Horace Donisthorpe, until advancements in biology changed the perceptions of the field. These changes allowed myrmecologists like E. O. Wilson, who created sociobiology, to study how genetics relates to an animal’s behavior. Engineers have also studied ants for networking purposes, because they are able to move about in large numbers in cramped areas, without experiencing congestion. These studies have helped produce some advancements in building design and networking, but these advancements are nowhere near as efficient as an ant colony.

Image Caption: Meat Eater Ant feeding on honey. Credit: fir0002/Wikipedia

Myrmecology