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Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration Paperback – August 20, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0674485266 ISBN-10: 0674485262 Edition: Reprint

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Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration + The Leafcutter Ants: Civilization by Instinct + The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Look to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise," says the proverb. Bert Hölldobler and E.O. Wilson have joined together to tell how they took this advice and to share the fruits of their wisdom. As Nature said, they "have done for ants what Levi's did for denim." Not just a good-parts version of their magisterial, Pulitzer-winning The Ants, Journey is also a double autobiography--the history of how early enthusiasm developed into an enormously fruitful scientific collaboration. "We, having entered our bug period as children, were blessed by never being required to abandon it," the authors write. Their devotion to their chosen field shines through.

Journey to the Ants gives an outstanding overview of the enormous variety and fascination of myrmecology, from the primitive bulldog ants of Australia to the complexities of weaver ant societies, slave-making ants and agriculture, army ants, and the social parasites concealed within anthills. There is an appendix with practical instructions for collecting individual ants or whole colonies, dead or alive. Hölldobler and Wilson clearly want other children to follow in their footsteps, growing from simple bug love to insights into evolution and society. --Mary Ellen Curtin

From Publishers Weekly

In 1990, the authors won a Pulitzer Prize (science) for their monumental The Ants. Holldobler (Univ. of Wurzburg) and Wilson (Harvard), longtime collaborators, offer lay readers a fascinating glimpse into the world of ants as well as their own personal adventures in the study of these insects. We see weaver ants that live in tropical forest canopies, their nests made of leaves bound with silk. A colony of leafcutter ants raising fungi on pieces of fresh leaves consumes as much vegetation as a cow. Harvester ants alter the abundance and local distribution of flowering plants. The authors describe cooperation and communication; they found that ant species use 10 to 20 chemicals to convey attraction, alarm and other messages. They discuss ants' relations with butterflies, aphids and mealybugs (symbiosis), warfare (over food and territory) and exploitation. We learn that ants do not live at temperatures below 50 F. and that the greatest threat to them is drought. After reading Journey, we can only admire these insects and their remarkable social organization. Illustrations.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; Reprint edition (1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674485262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674485266
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Everyone who has the slightest appreciation of nature and love of learning will like this book.
Scott Stratton
The best thing I can say about this book is that it was not only informative, but it increased my interest in ants, I will be reading "The Ants".
Dean Welch
Journey to the Ants written by Holldobler and Wilson is one of the best nonfiction nature books I have ever read.
Peter B. Schilling

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Erika Mitchell TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is an exploration into all aspects of ant life, written for general readers. Holldobler and Wilson, who wrote the massive scientific reference volume, The Ants, felt that there was also a demand for a less formal book about ants that ordinary readers might enjoy reading from cover-to-cover. In this book, they describe not only the lives of ants and ant colonies, but also how their own interests in ants developed. The book covers such topics as the dominance of ants, the life and death of the colony, the colony as a superorganism, ant communication, relations between ants within and between colonies, ancient ants, ant parasites, army ants, and ants and the environment. They also include a brief section on how to study ants. The book is illustrated both black-and white photos and sets of color photographic plates. There is an index, but surprisingly, there is no bibliography or recommendations for further reading; presumably, their main recommendation would be to consult their reference volume, The Ants.

The first chapter in the book, The Dominance of Ants, stood out the most for me. In this chapter, the authors note that ants are overwhelmingly the dominant species on earth. By weight, the world ant population equals the world human population, and represents half or more of the world's insect biomass. These ten thousand trillion creatures are spread throughout the world's habitats, from the Amazon to Finland, from deserts to rain forests. With that in mind, the study of ants is clearly well-worth taking up. Why are ants so populous and successful? As the authors argue, one reason is their social nature. They put the survival of the colony above their own individual survival.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on January 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
There are only a few writers who truly capture the natural world's complex structure, presenting it in a readable manner. Edward Wilson is one of these. Here, he's joined by Bert Holldobler in picturing one of our world's more enigmatic creatures - the ants. This book is a joy to read, whether you seriously study evolution or simply want a grander picture of life's mysteries. This book is a collector's item in reviewing what is known about ants and calling on students to consider how much remains to be studied.
The ants are one of the dominant forms of life on this planet. They've spread to nearly every environmental niche, adapting their habits and colony structure successfully. Wilson and Holldobler willingly convey their awe at this variety to anyone wishing to share it. Among the amazing accounts they relate, perhaps two stand out. The finding of the earliest known fossil specimens by a New Jersey family, and the night-foraging ants of Australia. Holldobler and Wilson's journeys have taken them to remote sites around the planet. They have a fine sense of how to bring the reader into their camps and excursions, sharing their discoveries and their tribulations.
Along the way, we learn how ants form their colonies, breed, forage, make war and enslave or absorb their fellows or other creatures. "Ants all look the same to the naked eye" they state, then show what a fallacy it is to continue believing that outlook. Beginning as solitary ground wasps, the ants have become one of the most complex social creatures in life. Their colonies range from simple bivouacs to huge structures. They can remove tonnes of soil to build a nest or range over extensive territories, terrifying even people with waves of migrating insects.
Anyone seeking to understand even a little of the diversity of life should own this book.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is easy to read. Could easily be used by elementary, middle school, and secondary school teachers to prepare a number of interesting lessons and scientific projects. Not only can insects (ants in particular, of course) but society, community, non-linguistic communication, evolution, and putting the universe into a size perspective provides many areas for class discussion. "Ants are oblivious to human existence." An incredible statement that will spark great conversation. Ants do not even know we are here! And they wont miss us when we are gone. After we have destroyed our natural habitat, they will continue to live in their microwildernesses. Text also provides a brief chapter on how to collect and observe ants and ant colonies. I am a language teacher but found reading this text simple and interesting.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Tom on January 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book was pleasant and rewarding to read. I came to it via The Naturalist, then Consilience, next Biophilia. It's as well written as each of these, and it shares many broad themes with them. It's different, of course, in the narrow focus, and that yields a different kind of pleasure. Most remarkable to me were the following: the extreme refinements in co-evolution of certain symbiotic species, the genetic basis of the ant's social behavior, the power of Darwinian theory to explain social behavior, and simply the importance of ants. Another pleasure of the book is the occasional insights it offers into the authors' work habits and experimental methods. The book is easily accessible to the lay person. In fact, it's an easy read. The other books of his mentioned above are also excellent.
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