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New York Times
“Packed with graphic enthusiasm...[and] provocative thoughts. . . . [Moffett] writes with an entertainer’s instinct for hooking a restless audience.”
Ants are world-class road builders, handling traffic problems on thoroughfares that dwarf our highway systems in their complexity
Ants with the largest societies often deploy complicated military tactics
Some ants have evolved from hunter-gatherers into farmers, domesticating other insects and growing crops for food
Introduction Travels with My Ants 1
A Brief Primer on Ants 7
Marauder Ant, the Ultimate Omnivore
1 Strength in Numbers 12
2 The Perfect Swarm 23
3 Division of Labor 36
4 Infrastructure 51
5 Group Transport 62
African Army Ant, Raiders on the Swarm
6 Big Game Hunters 72
7 Clash of the Titans 85
8 Notes from Underground 95
Weaver Ant, Empress of the Air
9 Canopy Empires 110
10 Fortified Forests 120
11 Negotiating the Physical World 133
Amazon Ant, the Slavemaker
12 Slaves of Sagehen Creek 148
13 Abduction in the Afternoon 157
Leafcutter Ant, the Constant Gardener
14 A Fungus Farmer's Life 170
15 The Origins of Agriculture 187
Argentine Ant, the Global Invader
16 Armies of the Earth 202
17 The Immortal Society 213
Conclusion: Four Ways of Looking at an Ant 221
Acknowledgments and a Note on Content 232
Posted May 23, 2010
Mark Moffett is as much a wonder as is his topic of this particular book ADVENTURES AMONG ANTS: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions. Not only is he an intrepid biologist/entomologist, an explorer who knows no fear, and a true Naturalist (comfortably in the company of Muir, Audubon, Thoreau, and Darwin!), but he is also a writer of great skill and a photographer par excellence.
In this endlessly fascinating a thorough book Moffett invites us to join him on a global journey that spans from California to Nigeria, from the Amazon to Australia, from Indonesia to India, Borneo, Botswana, and Madagascar, and as his pupils we not only learn a lot about these destinations (and many others), but his guiding core is studying the ant. One could very easily be satisfied with simply surveying the many full color photographs of ants at work and learn from those. But that is not Moffett's purpose. Writing with a sense of awe and amazement that is contagious, he explores the highly organized civilizations that ants create. Here are chapters that read like small novels explaining weaver ants and the complex manner in which they create canopy empires, the 'sisterhood' concept of colonies, the divisions of labor in these highly integrated cultures of ants, and the manner in which ants take slaves, fight invaders, stage wars and invade distant lands.
The similarities between ant civilizations and human civilizations are presented in a matter of fact, untainted manner - a factor that makes Moffett's wring inviting instead of accusatory. Yes, there is much to learn from his close scrutiny of ant colonies and behavior, but in other writers' (and thinkers') hands the result would not have the immediate impact of sharing secrets of the world we cannot readily see. Moffett provides enormous binoculars through which we can get a closer at the aspects of our planet we know and understand so little. A brilliant book, this.
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Posted May 8, 2013
Posted December 27, 2011
Posted November 21, 2011
The author spends way too much time on how uncomfortable he was as he traveled the world looking at ants. One assumes that crawling around a rain forest is not very pleasant. I didn't need to be reminded about it every few pages.
He also has a condescending attitude about the locals, at one point describing his guide as "my kinky haired guide Asab".
This book could stand some serious editing.
I'm glad I borrowed this one from a library, and didn't waste my money on it.
Posted September 14, 2010
I had read some excerpts in a previous book regarding ants and wanted to explore the subject further. This book had been rated very highly so I purchased it. The first seventy pages reads like a thesis paper and the author gets "in the weeds" with regard to ant behavior. It is not so much of an "adventure" as it is an exercise in staying awake. If you are looking for a reference for your college entomology paper...enjoy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 19, 2010
A Global Safari with a cast of Trillions
Flat out, this is the most fascinating non-fiction title I've read this year. Ants are seldom seen as fascinating, more like a nuisance! However, this book makes me almost wish for an ant invasion, just to try and observe some of the details the Moffett describes in his worldwide studies on ants.
The text contains lots of surprises as it covers various species of ants, and I can't scratch the surface of all the funny and also disquieting details about these creatures. He first discusses marauder ants, who can be classified in three sizes: the largest is 50 times larger than the smallest, and often serves as a 'bus' to carry smaller ants to new locations. Most ants are female, they can live upwards of two years, and their behavior as workers for the colony is altruistic. The worker ants do not reproduce, and thus do not compete for food. In fact, he describes the male ants (that resemble wasps) as 'socially useless', and confined to being sperm donors.
Their travel in columns is well-known, but how they find food and relay the information to the workers is unique. They emit a "recruitment" pheromone that immediately tells ants in the vicinity that food is near, and within seconds a full swarm goes into attack mode, retrieving the food and taking it back for storage. But what is more fascinating is the Pharoah ant that also has a "don't bother" pheromone that it emits when the food is gone, so that no ants waste their time.
The paths that ants use are actually ant roads, they reuse them as needed, rather than just randomly traveling over earth (as it would appear). Some ants have coordinated group attacks that allow them to overcome much larger prey simply by virtue of their large numbers rather than a stinger Army ants are useful in some ways because they clear out vermin, such as roaches and mice, from the vicinity. Driver ants can overtake a monkey corpse and reduce it to bone in just a few days. More interesting is that driver ants can play dead, for sufficiently long periods of time to allow them to escape.
Weaver ants were possibly the most fascinating to me, as they literally sew leaves together (see photo at right). The ants grab a leaf as a team, and another ant picks up a larva (basically a baby ant) that exudes silk and uses the silk as thread to create nests that can last for years. Argentine ants are battling a dangerous war in Southern California, as the colonies actually raise and "herd" aphids. Aphids in oversized numbers then attack local plants. This leads to the death of important indigenous plants that serve to provide pollen to the region, and upwards through the food chain different species are affected by the invasive species.
The writing style is witty and fast-paced. The author's enthusiasm is contagious, and the details never get too cumbersome or so overly scientific that you end up bored. Great photographs that enlarge the ants to a bigger size make the details that much more fascinating.
Posted July 27, 2010
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Posted July 31, 2010
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