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The World War of the Ants – The Army Ant

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00:00   |   Aug 11, 2019 at 07:00

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The World War of the Ants – The Army Ant
The World War of the Ants – The Army Ant thumb The World War of the Ants – The Army Ant thumb The World War of the Ants – The Army Ant thumb

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  • Some groups just don't get along.​
  • Some groups just don't get along.​
  • Every day, billions of soldiers fight a merciless war​
  • Every day, billions of soldiers fight a merciless war​
  • on thousands of fronts, and it's been going on for over 100 million years.​
  • on thousands of fronts, and it's been going on for over 100 million years.​
  • The World War of the Ants.​
  • The World War of the Ants.​
  • Ants are ancient beings that arose around 160 million years ago,​
  • Ants are ancient beings that arose around 160 million years ago,​
  • and took over a wide variety of ecological niches so successfully​
  • and took over a wide variety of ecological niches so successfully​
  • that they became one of the dominant animals on planet Earth.​
  • that they became one of the dominant animals on planet Earth.​
  • Today, they count more than 16,000 different species​
  • Today, they count more than 16,000 different species​
  • with over 10 thousand trillion individuals.​
  • with over 10 thousand trillion individuals.​
  • Collectively, ants alone make up 20% of the entire animal biomass on land.​
  • Collectively, ants alone make up 20% of the entire animal biomass on land.​
  • Similar to humans, their recipe for success is collaboration.​
  • Similar to humans, their recipe for success is collaboration.​
  • While a single ant is pretty useless,​
  • While a single ant is pretty useless,​
  • together, they are able to achieve stunning feats.​
  • together, they are able to achieve stunning feats.​
  • They construct complex colonies,​
  • They construct complex colonies,​
  • care for livestock,​
  • care for livestock,​
  • pursue agriculture,​
  • pursue agriculture,​
  • or have complex symbiotic relationships.​
  • or have complex symbiotic relationships.​
  • And, of course, ants wage war.​
  • And, of course, ants wage war.​
  • Even among the same species, a constant state of conflict is pretty common.​
  • Even among the same species, a constant state of conflict is pretty common.​
  • Skirmishes, raids, and full-on invasions​
  • Skirmishes, raids, and full-on invasions​
  • are happening every day, causing millions of casualties.​
  • are happening every day, causing millions of casualties.​
  • Let's look at some of the most interesting ones in a series of videos.​
  • Let's look at some of the most interesting ones in a series of videos.​
  • In this one, the ​​army ant​—a swarm made for war.​
  • In this one, the ​​army ant​—a swarm made for war.​
  • The army ant group consists of about 200 different species.​
  • The army ant group consists of about 200 different species.​
  • Army ants do not build nests; they live a sort-of nomadic lifestyle​
  • Army ants do not build nests; they live a sort-of nomadic lifestyle​
  • with groups of millions of individuals.​
  • with groups of millions of individuals.​
  • On a hunt, some species form large columns up to 100 meters long,​
  • On a hunt, some species form large columns up to 100 meters long,​
  • killing and immediately dismembering every insect or small vertebrate they encounter.​
  • killing and immediately dismembering every insect or small vertebrate they encounter.​
  • The biggest hunting parties can kill up to 500,000 animals per day.​
  • The biggest hunting parties can kill up to 500,000 animals per day.​
  • Some army ants specialize in hunting and consuming other social insects​
  • Some army ants specialize in hunting and consuming other social insects​
  • like termites, wasps, and especially other ants.​
  • like termites, wasps, and especially other ants.​
  • Wasps are fierce, and may seem invulnerable,​
  • Wasps are fierce, and may seem invulnerable,​
  • but if a swarm makes its way to their colonies​
  • but if a swarm makes its way to their colonies​
  • they don't even stand a chance.​
  • they don't even stand a chance.​
  • The much bigger and stronger wasps might kill a few of them,​
  • The much bigger and stronger wasps might kill a few of them,​
  • but they are quickly overwhelmed.​
  • but they are quickly overwhelmed.​
  • Even if their queen survives an attack,​
  • Even if their queen survives an attack,​
  • the army ants steal the colony's larvae, and quickly devour them.​
  • the army ants steal the colony's larvae, and quickly devour them.​
  • There is no recovery from that.​
  • There is no recovery from that.​
  • When army ants discover another ant colony, they immediately attack.​
  • When army ants discover another ant colony, they immediately attack.​
  • Now, you might think this would be a more even battle, but it's not.​
  • Now, you might think this would be a more even battle, but it's not.​
  • Because army ants act as a social unit,​
  • Because army ants act as a social unit,​
  • they are especially dangerous and effective.​
  • they are especially dangerous and effective.​
  • Most army ants are not particularly impressive individually,​
  • Most army ants are not particularly impressive individually,​
  • but they can overwhelm their victims with sheer numbers​
  • but they can overwhelm their victims with sheer numbers​
  • before the victim colony can mount an effective defense.​
  • before the victim colony can mount an effective defense.​
  • And so, invasions tend to be won by the attackers​
  • And so, invasions tend to be won by the attackers​
  • and the prey colony is damaged significantly,​
  • and the prey colony is damaged significantly,​
  • or is exterminated.​
  • or is exterminated.​
  • Interestingly, army ants don't fight army ants.​
  • Interestingly, army ants don't fight army ants.​
  • When two swarms encounter each other in the wild,​
  • When two swarms encounter each other in the wild,​
  • they either pass through each other, ignoring the other swarm,​
  • they either pass through each other, ignoring the other swarm,​
  • or both colonies just move away.​
  • or both colonies just move away.​
  • Which makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint.​
  • Which makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint.​
  • Army ants that fought other army ants​
  • Army ants that fought other army ants​
  • probably eradicated themselves millions of years ago.​
  • probably eradicated themselves millions of years ago.​
  • Indeed, they're so deadly, that other ant species had to specialize​
  • Indeed, they're so deadly, that other ant species had to specialize​
  • to survive their presence.​
  • to survive their presence.​
  • Many species just panic and evacuate their nest when they notice army ant scouts​
  • Many species just panic and evacuate their nest when they notice army ant scouts​
  • carrying as many larvae with them as they can,​
  • carrying as many larvae with them as they can,​
  • in order to return and rebuild after the attack.​
  • in order to return and rebuild after the attack.​
  • Other species have invented living bunkers, since fighting is so futile.​
  • Other species have invented living bunkers, since fighting is so futile.​
  • They have worker classes that have big square heads.​
  • They have worker classes that have big square heads.​
  • When army ants show up,​
  • When army ants show up,​
  • they use them to block the entrances to their nests,​
  • they use them to block the entrances to their nests,​
  • so the attackers have to give up after a while.​
  • so the attackers have to give up after a while.​
  • But, not everybody is afraid of army ants.​
  • But, not everybody is afraid of army ants.​
  • Leafcutter ants form some of the largest and most complex societies​
  • Leafcutter ants form some of the largest and most complex societies​
  • of any animal other than humans.​
  • of any animal other than humans.​
  • They live in extensive nests, many meters deep and across,​
  • They live in extensive nests, many meters deep and across,​
  • harboring millions of citizens with a highly-sophisticated division of labor.​
  • harboring millions of citizens with a highly-sophisticated division of labor.​
  • Like huge soldiers—100 times more massive than a worker.​
  • Like huge soldiers—100 times more massive than a worker.​
  • Their sole purpose might be to defend their colonies against army ants.​
  • Their sole purpose might be to defend their colonies against army ants.​
  • They still have a nemesis though.​
  • They still have a nemesis though.​
  • The diet of the army ant​ ​species ​​Nomamyrmex esenbekii​
  • The diet of the army ant​ ​species ​​Nomamyrmex esenbekii​
  • consists mostly of the larvae of other ants.​
  • consists mostly of the larvae of other ants.​
  • Compared to other army ants, they have a more robust soldier cast.​
  • Compared to other army ants, they have a more robust soldier cast.​
  • So far, they are the only known species that can successfully attack a mature colony of leafcutters.​
  • So far, they are the only known species that can successfully attack a mature colony of leafcutters.​
  • When they find a leafcutter colony, hundreds of thousands attack in a long column.​
  • When they find a leafcutter colony, hundreds of thousands attack in a long column.​
  • The moment the leafcutter ants notice the army ant attack, they go into crisis mode​
  • The moment the leafcutter ants notice the army ant attack, they go into crisis mode​
  • and immediately alert their soldiers, who very quickly swarm to the site of attack.​
  • and immediately alert their soldiers, who very quickly swarm to the site of attack.​
  • A frontline develops that can be a few meters wide, and up to a meter deep.​
  • A frontline develops that can be a few meters wide, and up to a meter deep.​
  • The leafcutter soldiers go head-to-head with the army ants,​
  • The leafcutter soldiers go head-to-head with the army ants,​
  • locking on them, and try to cut through their heads.​
  • locking on them, and try to cut through their heads.​
  • Smaller leafcutter workers help by grabbing the enemies.​
  • Smaller leafcutter workers help by grabbing the enemies.​
  • Small teams carry out attacks behind the frontline,​
  • Small teams carry out attacks behind the frontline,​
  • where they dismember their enemies by ripping their legs from their bodies.​
  • where they dismember their enemies by ripping their legs from their bodies.​
  • The attackers, meanwhile, try to swarm their victim soldiers,​
  • The attackers, meanwhile, try to swarm their victim soldiers,​
  • and sting them to death in a mob.​
  • and sting them to death in a mob.​
  • Despite the powerful defense, and the determined response,​
  • Despite the powerful defense, and the determined response,​
  • the army ants are still superior in numbers.​
  • the army ants are still superior in numbers.​
  • So, without knowing if the battle can be won, the leafcutters prepare for the worst.​
  • So, without knowing if the battle can be won, the leafcutters prepare for the worst.​
  • Workers rush to create barricades,​
  • Workers rush to create barricades,​
  • and seal off as many entrances to their nest as possible to secure their brood.​
  • and seal off as many entrances to their nest as possible to secure their brood.​
  • If the leafcutters are not able to repel the invaders,​
  • If the leafcutters are not able to repel the invaders,​
  • or at least barricade enough of their entrances in time,​
  • or at least barricade enough of their entrances in time,​
  • the army ants swarm the nest, overrunning all opposition.​
  • the army ants swarm the nest, overrunning all opposition.​
  • They penetrate deep into the hidden chambers,​
  • They penetrate deep into the hidden chambers,​
  • and steal tens of thousands of the leafcutters' brood to eat them.​
  • and steal tens of thousands of the leafcutters' brood to eat them.​
  • Even if the leafcutter colony survives, this is a heavy blow.​
  • Even if the leafcutter colony survives, this is a heavy blow.​
  • Regardless who has won the war, thousands lay slain on the battlefield.​
  • Regardless who has won the war, thousands lay slain on the battlefield.​
  • When the army ants attack, death follows them.​
  • When the army ants attack, death follows them.​
  • But, there are other species that form much more dangerous ant armies.​
  • But, there are other species that form much more dangerous ant armies.​
  • Species that form supercolonies, covering thousands of square kilometers​
  • Species that form supercolonies, covering thousands of square kilometers​
  • over multiple continents, engaging in wars kilometers across.​
  • over multiple continents, engaging in wars kilometers across.​
  • They deserve their own video though.​
  • They deserve their own video though.​
  • No matter the scale, war is a part of ant existence,​
  • No matter the scale, war is a part of ant existence,​
  • be it between huge colonies or small groups trying to fend off a raid.​
  • be it between huge colonies or small groups trying to fend off a raid.​
  • In tropical rainforests, but also in the cracks of the concrete we walk over every day.​
  • In tropical rainforests, but also in the cracks of the concrete we walk over every day.​
  • Humans have decided that war is not a thing that they want to do a lot anymore.​
  • Humans have decided that war is not a thing that they want to do a lot anymore.​
  • For ants, though, the other ant will always be the enemy.​
  • For ants, though, the other ant will always be the enemy.​
  • No, some groups just don't get along.​
  • No, some groups just don't get along.​
  • If you can't get enough of ants, we're developing Part 2 of the Ant Series​
  • If you can't get enough of ants, we're developing Part 2 of the Ant Series​
  • right now with the support of ​​CuriosityStream​.​
  • right now with the support of ​​CuriosityStream​.​
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  • CuriosityStream is a subscription streaming service with thousands of documentaries,​
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  • to get a free 31-day trial to watch films like, "Big World in a Small Garden",​
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  • a documentary that takes a close look at the world of insects around us.​
  • Or other documentaries by the likes of Stephen Hawking, David Attenborough,​
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  • It's a great way to binge-watch fun videos while accidentally learning things.​
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  • Thank you so much to our friends at CuriosityStream for supporting our ants obsession,​
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Every day billions of soldiers fight a merciless war on thousands of fronts, that has been going on for over one hundred million years: The world war of the ants.

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