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The Miracle in Ants May 3, 2008

Posted by ayaat in Miscellaneous, sciences.
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With their various communication methods, ants may be compared to men who can speak several foreign languages. They are able to communicate with 3-4 different languages among themselves and they are able to pursue their lives in the least problematic manner. They are able to subsist their colonies with populations of hundreds of thousands or sometimes millions, and survive all their lives without causing any confusion.

Yet this communication system we have been describing so far is just one of the miraculous features of the animal world. When we analyse both people and also all other living beings (From single-celled to multi-celled) we can discover characteristics that are different from each other, with each being a separate and individual miracle with its place in an ecological order.

For an eye that can notice all these miracles that are created around it, and a heart that can feel, it will be sufficient to look at the extraordinary communication system of the ant of millimetric dimensions to appreciate the infinite power, knowledge and wisdom of Allah Who is the sole Owner and Sovereign of all living things. In the Qur’an, Allah refers to these people who do not have this capability and who may not appreciate His might:

(Have they not travelled about the earth and do they not have hearts to understand with or ears to hear with? It is not their eyes which are blind but the hearts in their breasts which are blind) (Surat al-Hajj:46 )

Communication in society

The Qur’an supplies an interesting piece of information when talking about Prophet Sulayman’s armies and mentions that there is an advanced “communications system” among the ants. The verse is as follows:

(Then, when they reached the valley of the ants, an ant said,’Ants! Enter your dwellings so that Sulayman and his troops do not crush you unwittingly.) (Surat an-Naml: 18 )

The scientific research made on ants in this century has shown that there is an incredible communications network among these creatures. In an article published in the National Geographic magazine, this point is explained:

Huge and tiny, an ant carries in her head multiple sensory organs to pick up chemical and visual signals vital to colonies that may contain a million or more workers, all of which are female. The brain contains half a million nerve cells; eyes are compound; antennae act as nose and fingertips. Projections below the mouth sense taste; hairs respond to touch.

Even if we do not notice it, the ants have quite a different method of communication in virtue of their sensitive sensing organs. They employ these sense organs at every moment of their lives, from finding their prey to following each other, from building their nests to fighting. They have a communication system which astonishes us, as human beings with intellect, with their 500,000 nerve cells squeezed into their bodies of 2 or 3 millimetres. What we should keep in mind here is that the half a million nerve cells and the complex communication system mentioned above belongs to an ant which in bulk is almost one millionth of a human being.

In research done on social creatures like ants, bees and termites, who live in colonies, the responses of these animals in the communication process are listed under several main categories: Alarm, recruitment, grooming, exchange of oral and anal liquid, group effect, recognition, caste determination…

The ants, who constitute an orderly social structure with these various responses, lead a life based on mutual news exchange and they have no difficulty in achieving this correspondence. We could say that ants, with their impressive communication system, are hundred percent successful on subjects that human beings sometimes cannot resolve nor agree upon by talking (e.g. meeting, sharing, cleaning, defence, etc.).

The Role of Touch in Chemical Communications

The communications by ants by touching each other with their antennae in maintaining intra-colony organization proves that there is in use an “antennal language” in its fullest sense.

The antenna signals created by touching in ants are used for various purposes like commencement of dinner, invitations and social meetings where nestmates get to know each other. For instance, in one type of worker ant species living in Africa, workers first touch by the antennae when they meet each other. Here, “antenna shaking” means just a salute and an invitation to the nest.

This invitation behaviour is even more striking in certain ant species (Hypoponera) When a pair of workers meet face to face, the inviting ant tilts its head sideways 90 degrees and strikes the upper and lower surfaces of the nestmate’s head with its antennae. Often the solicited ant responds with similar antennation.

When the ants touch the bodies of their nestmates, the goal is not to give them information but to receive information by detecting the chemicals they secrete. One ant beats the nestmate’s body very lightly and rapidly with its antennae. When it gets close to its nestmate, its goal here is to bring the chemical signals as close as possible to the other. As a result, it will be able to detect and follow the odor trail its friend has just laid and reach the food source.

The most striking example that may be set forth for tactile communication is the exchange of liquid food from the crop of one ant to the alimentary tract of another. In an interesting test made on this subject, various parts of the bodies of worker ants of the Myrmica and Formica species were stimulated by human hair and were thus successfully induced to regugitate. The most susceptible ant was the one that had just finished a meal and was looking for a nestmate with whom to share its crop content. Researchers noted that certain insects and parasites were aware of such tactics and they were having themselves fed by practising this method. What the insect had to do to attract the ant’s attention was just to touch the ant’s body slightly with its antenna and its front leg. Then the touched ant would share its meal, even if the creature in contact with it is of a different type.

The ability of an ant to understand what the other one wants by a short antenna contact shows that the ants may, in a sense, “speak” among themselves. How this “antennal language” used among ants is learned by all ants is another subject to think about. Are they undergoing training on this subject? To talk about the existence of such training, we must also talk about the existence of a superior Almighty Who provides it. Since it cannot be the ants who can provide such a training, this Almighty is Allah Who, by way of inspiration, teaches all ants a language with which to communicate.

The sharing behaviour practised among ants is a specimen of self-sacrifice that cannot be explained by the theory of evolution. Some evolutionists who see the adage “Big fish swallow small fish” as the key to life on earth are forced to withdraw such words when confronted with such self-sacrifice as is displayed by ants. In an ant colony, instead of the “big ant” developing by eating the “small ant”, it rather attempts to feed the “small ant” and make it grow. All ants are ready to accept the food – that is, the “provision” – given to them and definitely make sure to share the excess with other members of the colony.

As a result, what all these examples show us is that the ants are a society of living beings who have submitted to the will of the Creator and who act under His inspiration. Therefore, it would not be right to regard them as organisms which are totally unconscious, because they do have a consciousness which reflects the will of their Creator. Indeed, Allah draws attention in the Qur’an to this interesting fact and notifies us that all living things are, in fact, a community among themselves, that is, they live under a Divine order and in accordance with inspiration.

(There is not an animal that lives on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but forms communities like you. We have not omitted anything from the Book, and they will be gathered to their Lord.) (Surat al-An’am: 38 )

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