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Meet Design Systems , a recent Smashing book in which Alla Kholmatova explores how to set up an effective design system to create great digital products. With common traps, gotchas and lessons learned. The petiole may be formed by one or two nodes the second alone, or the second and third abdominal segments. Like other insects, ants have an exoskeleton , an external covering that provides a protective casing around the body and a point of attachment for muscles, in contrast to the internal skeletons of humans and other vertebrates.

Insects do not have lungs ; oxygen and other gases, such as carbon dioxide , pass through their exoskeleton via tiny valves called spiracles. Insects also lack closed blood vessels ; instead, they have a long, thin, perforated tube along the top of the body called the " dorsal aorta " that functions like a heart, and pumps haemolymph toward the head, thus driving the circulation of the internal fluids.

The nervous system consists of a ventral nerve cord that runs the length of the body, with several ganglia and branches along the way reaching into the extremities of the appendages. An ant's head contains many sensory organs. Like most insects, ants have compound eyes made from numerous tiny lenses attached together. Ant eyes are good for acute movement detection, but do not offer a high resolution image. They also have three small ocelli simple eyes on the top of the head that detect light levels and polarization.

However, some ants, such as Australia's bulldog ant , have excellent vision and are capable of discriminating the distance and size of objects moving nearly a metre away. Two antennae "feelers" are attached to the head; these organs detect chemicals, air currents , and vibrations ; they also are used to transmit and receive signals through touch.

The head has two strong jaws, the mandibles , used to carry food, manipulate objects, construct nests, and for defence. Both the legs and wings of the ant are attached to the mesosoma "thorax". The legs terminate in a hooked claw which allows them to hook on and climb surfaces. Queens shed their wings after the nuptial flight , leaving visible stubs, a distinguishing feature of queens. In a few species, wingless queens ergatoids and males occur.

Eye to Form Is Only Love : A Journal of 100 Days by Traktung Yeshe Dorje (2012, Paperback)

The metasoma the "abdomen" of the ant houses important internal organs, including those of the reproductive, respiratory tracheae , and excretory systems. Workers of many species have their egg-laying structures modified into stings that are used for subduing prey and defending their nests. In the colonies of a few ant species, there are physical castes—workers in distinct size-classes, called minor, median, and major ergates.

Often, the larger ants have disproportionately larger heads, and correspondingly stronger mandibles. These are known as macrergates while smaller workers are known as micrergates. In a few species, the median workers are absent, creating a sharp divide between the minors and majors. The smallest and largest workers in Pheidologeton diversus show nearly a fold difference in their dry-weights. Workers cannot mate; however, because of the haplodiploid sex-determination system in ants, workers of a number of species can lay unfertilised eggs that become fully fertile, haploid males.

The role of workers may change with their age and in some species, such as honeypot ants , young workers are fed until their gasters are distended, and act as living food storage vessels. These food storage workers are called repletes. Usually the largest workers in the colony develop into repletes; and, if repletes are removed from the colony, other workers become repletes, demonstrating the flexibility of this particular polymorphism. The life of an ant starts from an egg. If the egg is fertilised, the progeny will be female diploid ; if not, it will be male haploid.

Ants develop by complete metamorphosis with the larva stages passing through a pupal stage before emerging as an adult. The larva is largely immobile and is fed and cared for by workers. Food is given to the larvae by trophallaxis , a process in which an ant regurgitates liquid food held in its crop.

This is also how adults share food, stored in the "social stomach". Larvae, especially in the later stages, may also be provided solid food, such as trophic eggs , pieces of prey, and seeds brought by workers. The larvae grow through a series of four or five moults and enter the pupal stage. The pupa has the appendages free and not fused to the body as in a butterfly pupa. Genetic influences and the control of gene expression by the developmental environment are complex and the determination of caste continues to be a subject of research.

Some species, such as army ants , have wingless queens. Larvae and pupae need to be kept at fairly constant temperatures to ensure proper development, and so often, are moved around among the various brood chambers within the colony. A new ergate spends the first few days of its adult life caring for the queen and young.

She then graduates to digging and other nest work, and later to defending the nest and foraging. These changes are sometimes fairly sudden, and define what are called temporal castes. An explanation for the sequence is suggested by the high casualties involved in foraging, making it an acceptable risk only for ants who are older and are likely to die soon of natural causes. Ant colonies can be long-lived. Males, however, are more transitory, being quite short-lived and surviving for only a few weeks.

Ants are active all year long in the tropics, but, in cooler regions, they survive the winter in a state of dormancy known as hibernation. The forms of inactivity are varied and some temperate species have larvae going into the inactive state diapause , while in others, the adults alone pass the winter in a state of reduced activity. A wide range of reproductive strategies have been noted in ant species.

Females of many species are known to be capable of reproducing asexually through thelytokous parthenogenesis.

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Contrary to popular belief, some ant nests have multiple queens, while others may exist without queens. Workers with the ability to reproduce are called " gamergates " and colonies that lack queens are then called gamergate colonies; colonies with queens are said to be queen-right. Drones can also mate with existing queens by entering a foreign colony. When the drone is initially attacked by the workers, it releases a mating pheromone. If recognized as a mate, it will be carried to the queen to mate. The marked male is interpreted as an invader by worker ants and is killed.

Most ants are univoltine , producing a new generation each year. The nuptial flight usually takes place in the late spring or early summer when the weather is hot and humid. Heat makes flying easier and freshly fallen rain makes the ground softer for mated queens to dig nests. Males then use visual cues to find a common mating ground, for example, a landmark such as a pine tree to which other males in the area converge. Males secrete a mating pheromone that females follow. Males will mount females in the air, but the actual mating process usually takes place on the ground. Females of some species mate with just one male but in others they may mate with as many as ten or more different males, storing the sperm in their spermathecae.

Mated females then seek a suitable place to begin a colony. There, they break off their wings and begin to lay and care for eggs. The females can selectively fertilise future eggs with the sperm stored to produce diploid workers or lay unfertilized haploid eggs to produce drones. The first workers to hatch are known as nanitics, [75] and are weaker and smaller than later workers, but they begin to serve the colony immediately.

They enlarge the nest, forage for food, and care for the other eggs. Species that have multiple queens may have a queen leaving the nest along with some workers to found a colony at a new site, [74] a process akin to swarming in honeybees. Ants communicate with each other using pheromones , sounds, and touch. Like other insects, ants perceive smells with their long, thin, and mobile antennae. The paired antennae provide information about the direction and intensity of scents. Since most ants live on the ground, they use the soil surface to leave pheromone trails that may be followed by other ants.

In species that forage in groups, a forager that finds food marks a trail on the way back to the colony; this trail is followed by other ants, these ants then reinforce the trail when they head back with food to the colony. When the food source is exhausted, no new trails are marked by returning ants and the scent slowly dissipates.

This behaviour helps ants deal with changes in their environment. For instance, when an established path to a food source is blocked by an obstacle, the foragers leave the path to explore new routes. If an ant is successful, it leaves a new trail marking the shortest route on its return. Successful trails are followed by more ants, reinforcing better routes and gradually identifying the best path.

Ants use pheromones for more than just making trails. A crushed ant emits an alarm pheromone that sends nearby ants into an attack frenzy and attracts more ants from farther away. Several ant species even use " propaganda pheromones" to confuse enemy ants and make them fight among themselves. Some ants produce sounds by stridulation , using the gaster segments and their mandibles. Sounds may be used to communicate with colony members or with other species. Ants attack and defend themselves by biting and, in many species, by stinging, often injecting or spraying chemicals, such as formic acid in the case of formicine ants, alkaloids and piperidines in fire ants , and a variety of protein components in other ants.

Bullet ants Paraponera , located in Central and South America , are considered to have the most painful sting of any insect, although it is usually not fatal to humans. This sting is given the highest rating on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. The sting of jack jumper ants can be fatal, [84] and an antivenom has been developed for it. Fire ants , Solenopsis spp. Trap-jaw ants of the genus Odontomachus are equipped with mandibles called trap-jaws, which snap shut faster than any other predatory appendages within the animal kingdom.

The ants were also observed to use their jaws as a catapult to eject intruders or fling themselves backward to escape a threat.


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Energy is stored in a thick band of muscle and explosively released when triggered by the stimulation of sensory organs resembling hairs on the inside of the mandibles. The mandibles also permit slow and fine movements for other tasks. Trap-jaws also are seen in the following genera: Anochetus , Orectognathus , and Strumigenys , [88] plus some members of the Dacetini tribe, [89] which are viewed as examples of convergent evolution.

A Malaysian species of ant in the Camponotus cylindricus group has enlarged mandibular glands that extend into their gaster.

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If combat takes a turn for the worse, a worker may perform a final act of suicidal altruism by rupturing the membrane of its gaster, causing the content of its mandibular glands to burst from the anterior region of its head, spraying a poisonous, corrosive secretion containing acetophenones and other chemicals that immobilise small insect attackers. The worker subsequently dies. Suicidal defences by workers are also noted in a Brazilian ant, Forelius pusillus , where a small group of ants leaves the security of the nest after sealing the entrance from the outside each evening.

In addition to defence against predators, ants need to protect their colonies from pathogens. Some worker ants maintain the hygiene of the colony and their activities include undertaking or necrophory , the disposal of dead nest-mates. Nests may be protected from physical threats such as flooding and overheating by elaborate nest architecture. Many animals can learn behaviours by imitation, but ants may be the only group apart from mammals where interactive teaching has been observed. A knowledgeable forager of Temnothorax albipennis will lead a naive nest-mate to newly discovered food by the process of tandem running.

The follower obtains knowledge through its leading tutor. The leader is acutely sensitive to the progress of the follower and slows down when the follower lags and speeds up when the follower gets too close. Controlled experiments with colonies of Cerapachys biroi suggest that an individual may choose nest roles based on her previous experience.

An entire generation of identical workers was divided into two groups whose outcome in food foraging was controlled. One group was continually rewarded with prey, while it was made certain that the other failed. As a result, members of the successful group intensified their foraging attempts while the unsuccessful group ventured out fewer and fewer times. A month later, the successful foragers continued in their role while the others had moved to specialise in brood care. Complex nests are built by many ant species, but other species are nomadic and do not build permanent structures.

Ants may form subterranean nests or build them on trees. These nests may be found in the ground, under stones or logs, inside logs, hollow stems, or even acorns. The materials used for construction include soil and plant matter, [74] and ants carefully select their nest sites; Temnothorax albipennis will avoid sites with dead ants, as these may indicate the presence of pests or disease. They are quick to abandon established nests at the first sign of threats. The army ants of South America, such as the Eciton burchellii species, and the driver ants of Africa do not build permanent nests, but instead, alternate between nomadism and stages where the workers form a temporary nest bivouac from their own bodies, by holding each other together.

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Weaver ant Oecophylla spp. Similar forms of nest construction are seen in some species of Polyrhachis. Formica polyctena , among other ant species, constructs nests that maintain a relatively constant interior temperature that aids in the development of larvae. The ants maintain the nest temperature by choosing the location, nest materials, controlling ventilation and maintaining the heat from solar radiation, worker activity and metabolism, and in some moist nests, microbial activity in the nest materials. Some ant species, such as those that use natural cavities, can be opportunistic and make use of the controlled micro-climate provided inside human dwellings and other artificial structures to house their colonies and nest structures.

Most ants are generalist predators, scavengers, and indirect herbivores, [27] but a few have evolved specialised ways of obtaining nutrition. It is believed that many ant species that engage in indirect herbivory rely on specialized symbiosis with their gut microbes [] to upgrade the nutritional value of the food they collect [] and allow them to survive in nitrogen poor regions, such as rainforest canopies. They continually collect leaves which are taken to the colony, cut into tiny pieces and placed in fungal gardens. Ergates specialise in related tasks according to their sizes.

The largest ants cut stalks, smaller workers chew the leaves and the smallest tend the fungus. Leafcutter ants are sensitive enough to recognise the reaction of the fungus to different plant material, apparently detecting chemical signals from the fungus. If a particular type of leaf is found to be toxic to the fungus, the colony will no longer collect it. The ants feed on structures produced by the fungi called gongylidia. Symbiotic bacteria on the exterior surface of the ants produce antibiotics that kill bacteria introduced into the nest that may harm the fungi.

In hot and arid regions, day-foraging ants face death by desiccation, so the ability to find the shortest route back to the nest reduces that risk. Diurnal desert ants of the genus Cataglyphis such as the Sahara desert ant navigate by keeping track of direction as well as distance travelled. Distances travelled are measured using an internal pedometer that keeps count of the steps taken [] and also by evaluating the movement of objects in their visual field optical flow.

The workers may then run around continuously until they die of exhaustion.


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The female worker ants do not have wings and reproductive females lose their wings after their mating flights in order to begin their colonies. Therefore, unlike their wasp ancestors, most ants travel by walking. Some species are capable of leaping.

For example, Jerdon's jumping ant Harpegnathos saltator is able to jump by synchronising the action of its mid and hind pairs of legs. Ants with this ability are able to control their horizontal movement so as to catch tree trunks when they fall from atop the forest canopy. Other species of ants can form chains to bridge gaps over water, underground, or through spaces in vegetation.

Some species also form floating rafts that help them survive floods. Since they lack gills , they go to trapped pockets of air in the submerged nests to breathe. Not all ants have the same kind of societies.

The Australian bulldog ants are among the biggest and most basal of ants. Like virtually all ants, they are eusocial , but their social behaviour is poorly developed compared to other species. Each individual hunts alone, using her large eyes instead of chemical senses to find prey. Some species such as Tetramorium caespitum attack and take over neighbouring ant colonies. Others are less expansionist, but just as aggressive; they invade colonies to steal eggs or larvae, which they either eat or raise as workers or slaves.

Extreme specialists among these slave-raiding ants , such as the Amazon ants , are incapable of feeding themselves and need captured workers to survive. Ants identify kin and nestmates through their scent, which comes from hydrocarbon -laced secretions that coat their exoskeletons. If an ant is separated from its original colony, it will eventually lose the colony scent. Any ant that enters a colony without a matching scent will be attacked. The Argentine ant , however, does not have this characteristic, due to lack of genetic diversity, and has become a global pest because of it.

Parasitic ant species enter the colonies of host ants and establish themselves as social parasites; species such as Strumigenys xenos are entirely parasitic and do not have workers, but instead, rely on the food gathered by their Strumigenys perplexa hosts. A variety of methods are employed to enter the nest of the host ant. A parasitic queen may enter the host nest before the first brood has hatched, establishing herself prior to development of a colony scent.

Other species use pheromones to confuse the host ants or to trick them into carrying the parasitic queen into the nest. Some simply fight their way into the nest. A conflict between the sexes of a species is seen in some species of ants with these reproducers apparently competing to produce offspring that are as closely related to them as possible. The most extreme form involves the production of clonal offspring. An extreme of sexual conflict is seen in Wasmannia auropunctata , where the queens produce diploid daughters by thelytokous parthenogenesis and males produce clones by a process whereby a diploid egg loses its maternal contribution to produce haploid males who are clones of the father.

Ants form symbiotic associations with a range of species, including other ant species, other insects, plants, and fungi. They also are preyed on by many animals and even certain fungi. Some arthropod species spend part of their lives within ant nests, either preying on ants, their larvae, and eggs, consuming the food stores of the ants, or avoiding predators.

These inquilines may bear a close resemblance to ants.

Eye to Form is Only Love A Journal of 100 Days

The nature of this ant mimicry myrmecomorphy varies, with some cases involving Batesian mimicry , where the mimic reduces the risk of predation. Others show Wasmannian mimicry , a form of mimicry seen only in inquilines. Aphids and other hemipteran insects secrete a sweet liquid called honeydew , when they feed on plant sap. The sugars in honeydew are a high-energy food source, which many ant species collect. The ants in turn keep predators away from the aphids and will move them from one feeding location to another. When migrating to a new area, many colonies will take the aphids with them, to ensure a continued supply of honeydew.

Ants also tend mealybugs to harvest their honeydew. Mealybugs may become a serious pest of pineapples if ants are present to protect mealybugs from their natural enemies. Myrmecophilous ant-loving caterpillars of the butterfly family Lycaenidae e. The caterpillars have a gland which secretes honeydew when the ants massage them. Some caterpillars produce vibrations and sounds that are perceived by the ants. The caterpillar is then taken into the ant nest where it feeds on the ant larvae.