[ExI] Ants for spike!

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Tue Nov 10 17:17:03 UTC 2009

On Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 4:00 AM,  Emlyn wrote:

> How can this be kin selection when none of the ants involved is able to breed?
> I would think natural selection in ants is at the level of the nest,
> not the individual; the individuals are more like cells in the body.
> Or is this wrong?

It's wrong.  There is no logical way for biological evolution to take
place at any level above the gene.

This is the central dogma of St. Dawkins.

Humans have biased psychological mechanisms (selected by evolution of
course) to prefer a higher level of selection.  Thus the persistence
of group selection theories when inclusive fitness and the limitations
of recognizing kin will account for the observations.

Worker ants, even though not breeders, contribute to the propagation
of their genes.  From the genes viewpoint, it cost resources to
produce them that could otherwise go to reproductives.  So it is not
hard to see that rescue behavior would be favored by evolution when
the cost to free a trapped ant was lower than the cost of growing a
new ant.

If ants are able to detect the age of another worker, it would be
expected that ants would put in more effort to release a young worker
than an old one.  (This test could be suggested to the researchers.)

As for cognitive skills in ants, I doubt it.  The nylon thread would
map into a limb of an ant predator or a spider web, both of which ants
have been exposed to long enough to have evolved behaviors to deal
with them.


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