- Paperback: 228 pages
- Publisher: Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674485262
- ISBN-13: 978-0674485266
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 48 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #295,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration Reprint Edition
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"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
Beautifully written and illustrated...These fifteen chapters are a bustling but well-organized ant heap, full of wonders natural and intellectual. (Philip Morrison Scientific American)
Everyone should read Journey to the Ants; it is a book to read right through; I have done so twice so far. It brings back the joy of science and restores the sense of wonder, it is truly food for thought. For me it is a beloved book that will stay at my bedside. (James E. Lovelock Times Higher Education Supplement)
Hölldobler and Wilson have carefully distilled more than 80 years of their combined personal research and thorough knowledge of the literature to produce a book that is both packed with ideas and information and a joy to read. The authors subtitled their book 'A Story of Scientific Exploration' and, like all good stories, it has a logical progression and sensible themes and is hard to put down. (C. Ronald Carroll American Scientist)
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The book addresses the following issues : Why study ants? How are ants organized? How do they communicate? How do they cooperate? What influence do they have on their environment. The answer to the first question is: We study ants because they are highly successful organisms - by some measures more successful than humans. And because they offer a compelling model of society. Parallels between ant and human society are many and may be described in ways that transcend qualities of the individual organisms. And we can do experiments on ant societies that are impossible to do with human ones.
In reading this book, Jared Diamond's Guns, Steel, Germs, and then Montesquieu's Constitution I was struck by a common idea. The ants that live in resource rich locations such as the African jungles have evolved large-scale highly centralized, highly specialized societies. They have many specialized castes. Diamond notes the same of human societies. Ants living in the Australian Outback find the location resource-poor and there is little specialization and almost no social heirarchy. Diamond found the same of Australian Aborigines. Montesquieu, in Constitution observes that when material wealth rises above moderate levels and becomes concentrated in one class, republics fail and turn to more centralized forms - as happened in Rome. He observes "Monarchy is more frequently found in fruitful countries and a republican government in those which are not so. This is sometimes a sufficient compensation for the inconveniences they suffer by the sterility of the land." This leads us to ask whether loss of liberty is an inevitable social consequence of material plentitude.
In studying ants we may not learn whether specialization can exist alongside liberty, but we certainly can learn that specialization depends upon resource plentitude. And it is quite surprising that this is such a fixed rule of society until we think about the fundamental requirements of a society's individuals. Then it begins to take the form of a universal law.
This is by no means a political book. It makes for quite entertaining and lively reading. The pages are sprinkled with illuminating diagrams and illustrations. The language is clear and readable. It clearly makes the case that societies have behaviors that occur almost independent of the qualities of their individuals - apart from their tendency to form societies. The study of ants is unique in its ability to give us a clear and objective view of the dynamics of societies. It is almost impossible to study ants and not come away with a deeper understanding of human society. For this reason the book is recommended for all readers regardless of their interest in the individual ant, or biology in general, or ant society per se.
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Ronald Chiu / Taipei, Taiwan