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.
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.
Monte Richard is a columnist for DaftGadgets.com, and you can check out his blog.
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.