Slavers, Rebels, and Regicide: The Fantastical Lives of Ants

I recently wrote a blog post for the FSC BioLinks project on some of the colony founding techniques and behavioural adaptations that have evolved in some ant groups and species. The blog post was entitled The Fantastical Lives of Ants: Slavers, Rebels, and Regicide, but I think I prefer the inversion of the title and subtitle as used above.

The piece was written in response to a comment made by an attendee at one of the Learn to Love Ants courses that I was teaching, where the person remarked that the lives of ants seem much like the fantasy series Game of Thrones. And there are certainly parallels that can be drawn between some of the observed behaviours of ants and the tropes of deception, brutality, conquest, and conflict that are rife in the fantasy genre.

There is of course much more complexity in these social insect societies than just these cherry-picked sensationalist topics, such as: brood care; mutualistic interactions with other organsims; the recently documented care for injured Matabele ants by their sisters; and many more besides. After all, as Sansa Stark says: “I’m sure cutting off heads is very satisfying, but that’s not the way you get people to work together”.

Author: Gino Brignoli

PhD student with the London NERC DTP. Previously ant genomics and evolution Research Assistant at Queen Mary University of London. With a keen interest in ecology and entomology, I have volunteered with the Lepidoptera department and Soil Biodiversity Group at the Natural History Museum, and on the Thorn to Orchid and Water for Wildlife projects with London Wildlife Trust.

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