The Dominant Species

“You humans! When’re you gonna learn that size doesn’t matter? Just ’cause something’s important doesn’t mean it’s not very very small.” – Frank the Pug in Men in Black

The dominant life form on Earth has colonized the entire planet. It lives natively everywhere except Antarctica and a handful of barren islands. It has built huge settlements comprising millions of individuals, and has an advanced social order. It has both complex communications and transportation. It farms plants, and herds domesticated animals. The young are educated by older, more experienced individuals. For all of its sophistication, warfare takes a substantial amount of its productivity, and many of its individuals specialize as soldiers.

The dominant species’ family evolved about 90 million years ago. Its population is so large that it can only be expressed in scientific notation (estimated at 10^16 individuals). In the tropics, it comprises 15-25% of all animals by weight. To support this incredible population, they harvest 15% of all vegetation.

The dominant life form on planet Earth is, of course, the Formicidae, otherwise known as the ant.

Ant trail

You’re fooling yourself if you think Homo Sapiens has anything on the ant. Nearly every international worker has a story about ants. As a young Padawan, I was hiking down a trail in the West African jungle with some more experienced friends. We encountered a few ants. Thirty seconds later, there were streams of ants that we were hopping over, and within a minute, the trail was carpeted with them. We sprinted down the trail until we reached an ant-free region, and then stood there doing the Macarena as we smacked ants off of ourselves.

When we were newlyweds, my wife and I visited a project in Burkina Faso. It was several hours from Ouagadougou in a hot, arid region of the Sahel. It was a troubled night. My bride and I spent the entire time brushing ourselves in the dark. The next morning, it turns out that ants had colonized the entire wooden frame of our bed. Our guest cabin was a major ant metropolis. They quickly covered any crumb or bit of food, and kept us hopping the entire time we were there.

The best way to deal with ants is simply to keep out of their way. You can fight them with insecticide, and for minor invasions, you may be able to establish a perimeter around your room or building, but good luck in the long term. You can kill hundreds of them, and the damage is less than a mosquito bite would be to a human. If they’re determined to go someplace, just give up and move to another location. The good news is they often don’t stay too long.