28 October 2022

ants and termites know better than us


(This is a reposting from 2015 of a wonderful documentary of David Attenborough I saw in France)

7 March 2015

life in the undergrowth...

Sliding into my sofa earlier than usual I watched this remarkable BBC show presented by David Attenborough. Of course, I had seen   small pieces of his things over the years; his comfortable, easy-going voice isn't hard to miss if one watches the BBC from time to time. 

What really knocked my socks off this evening was a show about certain types of ants and certain termites which live just inches under our feet. The footage from these shows reveal just how marvelous photographic technology has truly become. Inside their nests one can witness the frenetic movement of these tiny creatures which seem to be guided by some very mysterious force. Millions of legs and claws move like giant rivers through the undergrowth and work in complete harmony. How do they know these things? What intelligence guides them? 

The segment on the termites of South Africa showed us tall, thin, sail-like mounds dotting the landscape as far as the eye could see.  They appeared like sailboats all running the same sea. Attenborough explained that they were all, in fact, oriented on a north/south axis and built using magnetic fields by these particular termites. The large sail-like sides are exposed to morning sun which heat the colony deep inside after a cold desert night. As the sun drifts overhead into the scorching mid-day, the sail-like home provided little surface overhead so as to keep the colony cool during the daytime heat.
Another type of termite builds large mountainous homes, the walls of which are porous allowing wind to pass through them  which circulates the stale air deep down inside, pulling it up to expel it on the other porous side.  All this remarkable wisdom utilized by some of our tiniest neighbors here on earth. Its a world of eat and be eaten for sure, (devour and brutalize really), but its a world of the mysterious and collective wisdom which somehow seems to elude us humans beings. What happened in Evolution that we have missed something so special?
Or, am I just too naive?

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