#3. They've Mastered Cooperation
One of the scariest things about ants is their ability to get along and form global mega-colonies instead of killing each other. Most ants join forces, but even those that don't have figured out how to settle arguments without bloodshed.
The answer is tiny, tiny conference tables.
When there's a dispute over food or territory, there is an alternative to fighting in the ant world. Certain species will hold ritualized tournaments with "highly stereotyped display fights" that show off, without killing, which side is stronger. They don't attack each other. They just jerk around and throw their mandibles up and act real tough. The motions and posturing can go on for days, with the whole colony showing up to participate. When a clear winner emerges, the loser will voluntarily leave without being harmed (though sometimes the losers become enslaved, if their moves were particularly weak-ass). The dance-off enables both tribes to judge each other's strengths and numbers to determine who would win in a fight, and therefore render fighting unnecessary (it's sort of like the plot of Step Up).
If ant-dance-fighting isn't impressive enough for you, what about the greatest building team in history? Weaver ants dwell in trees and make little ant burrito homes out of the leaves, which they accomplish by bending the leaves and gluing them together. The leaves are giant, so no one ant can do this; they all have to work together. Sometimes they have to pile on top of each other and form pyramids so they can reach the leaves.
"Did you guys know most humans can't even decide on a restaurant together? True story."
Or sometimes they have to link together as a chain and pull the leaf closer.
When the leaf is in place, it's time for the gluing, which means that the chain of ants have to hold the leaf in place and wait, like living staples, until a baby ant is ready to spin its cocoon.
Oh, that's right, even the babies are involved in the construction (we did say "all" of the ants). Instead of covering itself in silk for its cocoon, the larva will donate its wispy strands to be used as building material. Weaver ants cart the babies out and use them like living glue guns to stitch the edges of the leaf homes together.
"I'm so fucking proud of you, son."
And then they have a nice ant bag.
Or a really terrible Hacky Sack.
And the most amazing thing about all of this is that no one ant is in charge of this shit. They just get up and unanimously decide to get shit done, and even the babies are like, "Yeah, totally, no, for the good of the colony, I'm on board."
#2. Their Numbers Are Staggering
It's estimated that the combined weight of all the ants in the world equals or exceeds the total biomass of all humanity, which, most scientists will agree, is "a holy fuckload of ants." Pound for pound, ants could take us in a straight up fight.
Ants would make the best Megazord.
Now let's add to that the fact that ants can reproduce at an alarming rate. It's not unheard of for a queen to spit out 300,000 ants in a week. That's one queen. Some individual colonies have been known to have as many as 300 queens. But of course, ants don't just stop there. They've also achieved immortality.
Animals that don't need a male to reproduce are rare, but not unheard of, but the longhorn crazy ant can take the trick a step further. They not only clone themselves, but they can clone others, too. When they want a daughter, the queen finds a mate, mates with it and lays an egg, which is her genetic duplicate. When she needs a male, she can mate with one of her (eww) brothers. The way they get around the complications of inbreeding is that they don't mix their genes. Somehow she is able to keep her genetic material out of the process, a feat previously assumed to be impossible. The result is that the queen will lay an egg that is a clone of her male brother. No other animal can make exact copies like this.
"If Mom calls me by my uncle's name one more time I swear I'll stop having sex with her."
Thank God ants don't display any higher mental functions.
#1. Display Higher Functions
We've already talked about how some ants take slaves, but even weak ants don't exactly appreciate being slaves. Some slave workers will fight back against their cruel overlords by destroying their conquerors' larvae on the sly, especially the baby queens. They'll either leave the larvae in a corner to rot or just eat them outright, often killing up to two-thirds of their host's brood. Individual ants aren't simpletons after all. They're forming a resistance movement, and doing so cleverly and in a way that will do the most damage to the colony while causing the least amount of suspicion.
"Bonjour. Today ze flag will fly ozer zat feelthy mound. Viva la revolution."
Ants are also capable of teaching each other. One ant will lead another ant to food, showing it the fastest path. The second ant will stop periodically to find landmarks, and the lead ant will slow down to wait for the trainee. Once the following ant is ready to continue, she'll tap the leader on the leg. When chimps and bumblebees have been shown to learn things from each other, it's always just been a case of one animal copying another. Ant training, however, is considered to be the first instance outside of humans of "bidirectional feedback teaching -- where both the teacher and pupil modify their behavior to provide guidance at a rate suitable for the pupil's abilities." They actively teach.
So, they're smart, they're more resourceful than us, they can adapt, they're ruthlessly patriotic to the ant cause and there are billions of them. So why haven't they attacked us yet?
Also, has anyone seen the art team?
Honestly? The only reason ants aren't challenging us for ownership of the planet is because it already belongs to them, and it has for a very long time. If anything, it's time for us to take back the Earth from them.
For more creatures we need to toss into the fire, check out 5 Species That Seem to be Trying to Take over the Earth and 7 Animals That Are One Flaw Away From Taking Over the World.