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The Leafcutter Ants: Civilization by Instinct (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 26. Oktober 2010


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Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Bert Holldobler is now Foundation Professor of Biology at Arizona State University; formerly Chair of Behavioral Physiology and Sociology at the Theodor Boveri Institute, University of Wurzburg. He is also the recipient of the U.S. Senior Scientist Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the German government. Until 1990, he was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University.


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Amazon.com: 4.9 von 5 Sternen 21 Rezensionen
23 von 23 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Intensely interesting subject and compelling writing 25. Dezember 2010
Von Clark B. Timmins - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
I received this book on Christmas Eve as a present and I stayed up all night reading it (much to my wife's dismay). I'm anxious to start reading it a second time. The book is superbly written and exceptionally interesting--just as you would expect from these Pulitzer-prize winning authors (I am a biologist and an ant-nerd, so your mileage may vary). If you are interested in biology or ants you are in for an exciting and fascinating tour of leafcutter society. If you're looking at the book and wondering if it's going to be interesting--my unqualified and enthusiastic response is "Yes". Physically, the book is printed on thick coated paper with numerous full-color photographs. Additionally, numerous black and white drawings are included to illustrate particular discussion points. The writing is easily accessible and although the 160-page book contains some scientific jargon most of the terms are explained the first time they are used and the book has an extensive glossary. The book also features an extensive reference section for further reading, as well as a comprehensive index. Front-matter includes a prologue, list of chapters, a table of illustrations, and a table of photographic plates.

The book is divided into thirteen chapters of unequal length. Chapters are topical and follow a logical presentation of topics from the general to the specific. Chapter one discusses the concept of a superorganism and evaluates the historical interpretation of this exciting concept. The authors argue that eusocial complex colonies--such as those formed by leafcutter ants--are best understood as a superorganism, not merely a collection of millions of discreet organisms. Chapter two examines the development of agriculture by the Attine ants. Chapter three discusses the specific methodologies used by the leafcutter ants (Acromyrmex and Atta) in fungal agriculture. The phylogeny of the Attine ants is discussed and also presented graphically. Continuing through the book, chapter topics include leafcutter life cycles (both individuals and colonies), caste systems, harvesting methods, and communication systems. Also considered are the ant-fungus mutualism, methods of hygiene in the symbiotic colonies (including waste management), predators and parasites, and nest and trail layout and management. Indeed, the latter chapters of the book fully support the initial prologue claim that prior to the rise of humanity "leafcutter colonies were the most advanced societies" of the planet.

If you've read the authors' magnum opus The Ants, you'll know what to expect--only here with additional years of data and a tight focus on perhaps the most-interesting group among the ants. If you haven't read The Ants this book will serve as a great primer and lead you to further great reading.
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A glorious case study 17. Juni 2012
Von Laurence Chalem - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Presented as a detailed case study, THE LEAFCUTTER ANTS is immediately accessible, fascinating, and informative. Bert Holldobler and E.O. Wilson bring the colony right to you, including a quite creative way of showing what a colony looks like. Imagine pumping tons of cement into a colony, letting it harden, and then digging it up to see what it looks like. Well, that's what they did, and, let me say, it is quite impressive. So much information in less than 150 pages that it is sure to please the most demanding nature enthusiast. Highly recommended... - lc
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Review of "The Leafcutter Ants" 6. Mai 2013
Von Mark J. Palmer - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Review of "The Leafcutter Ants" by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson, W.W. Norton & Co., 160 pp.

By Mark J. Palmer
Associate Director
International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute
[...]

One of nature's fascinating spectacles, at least on the small spectacle side of things, is a line of leafcutter ants, marching off across a trail (or via a glass tube in insectariums) with leaf upon leaf flashing green.

Bert Hölldobler and E.O. Wilson, authorities on ants, tell the story of leafcutter ants in detail, and the story of this line of troopers in the woods becomes an epic indeed. The subhead of their book is "Civilization by Instinct." Leafcutter ants, it turns out, build elaborate nests that stretch for many meters underground, with chamber upon chamber dedicated to a form of insect agriculture.

The leafy bits these ants carefully cut out are destined to be laid down and "farmed" as a growing bed for fungus, which the ants eat. The complexity of this process is mind-boggling, but occurs without the intelligence we ascribe to such activity in "higher" animals and humans.

"The Leafcutter Ants" is thoroughly researched and well documented (so much so that the references tend to get in the way of the reading), suitable for general reading and expert reference alike. Hölldobler and Wilson received a Pulitzer Prize for their extensive book "The Ants" -

"The Leafcutter Ants" is essentially chapters from that larger work. Also confusing is the wealth of Latin names to describe the behavior and life of different species of the leafcutter ants, found in both the New World and the Old World tropics and subtropics, so it can get a bit difficult to remember each genus that is referenced.

The book works through all aspects of the biology and behavior of leafcutter ants. Some species have more advanced organization than others. For example, one species not only has the worker ants that cut and move the leafs into the nest, but includes smaller "fighter" ants which ride piggyback on the worker to fend off attacks of parasitic flies that prey on the workers. The range of complexity in the organization of the different species and genera of leafcutter ants illustrates the evolution of such complexity and adaptations over time.

The center of the nest is the bloated queen ant, which lays the eggs that provide the colony with workers. Farmed fungi provides the colony with food. The ants even secrete antibiotics to control invading fungi in the farm cells that threaten the food source.

Then there are the predatory ants that try to steal the fungus from leafcutter ant colonies. These specialized freebooters will invade a nest, take it over, eat all the leftover ant pupae and fungus, and then move on to invade another ant nest. Others are more sneaky, living as parasites within the leafcutter ant colony itself.

The ants communicate chemically, such as marking trails to leaf sources from the nest, and using sound, such as rubbing body parts to produce sound (called stridulation, a word I really like), which appears to be picked by other ants from the ground rather than through the air.

The authors conclude: "...(T)here can be little doubt that the gigantic colonies of the Atta leafcutters, with their interlocking symbiont communities and extreme complexity and mechanisms of cohesiveness, deserve special attention as the greatest superorganisms on Earth discovered to the present time."

The "discovered at the present time" qualifier is important. E.O. Wilson has pointed out that our knowledge of the insects inhabiting the soil is extremely limited. New species are being discovered all the time, and their interactions, while critical to the functioning of natural ecosystems, are barely understood. There is a lot to be learned from looking down into all that dirt.

The book includes excellent black & white photographs and diagrams that illustrate the text, and a handy glossary of ant terms.

"The Leafcutter Ants" is an excellent and detailed introduction to a species that builds incredible civilizations beneath our feet. Highly recommended.
5 von 6 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen clear and concise 2. Dezember 2011
Von john k mt - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
i enjoyed the 1990 book "the ants" and hadn't gotten around to any of these authors' other books. i bought and read this instead of the "the super-oraganism", which is much longer and got some poor reviews for read-ability. this book makes clear what these authors consider a super-organism, and how these ants illustrate the concept. a fast and easy read for anyone interested in the subject.
1 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Great 17. Februar 2013
Von jks - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
In essence, all natural histories are stories – animal stories, plant stories and stories of how the two interact. This book, while the story of leaf cutter ants – primarily the species of Acromyrmex and Atta – is also the story of their communications and cooperation, their air conditioned architecture and their ability to start, cultivate and protect vast underground galleries of fungi. It is also the story of the fungi and the bacteria the ants use to protect the fungi. The book is 145 pages (with glossary, extensive references clear drawings and outstanding photographs) of jaw dropping examples of how these extraordinary creatures have evolved and how they live now.

Bert Holldobler and E.O. Wilson have been fascinated by and observing ants since they were boys – the former in Bavaria and the latter in Alabama. They met in the 1970’s while graduate students and have been fascinated by and observing ants together ever since. They have been researching and writing together for years, receiving the Pulitzer Prize for The Ants in 1990 and, more recently, The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance and Strangeness of Insect Societies (2009). The Leafcutter Ants is an expanded and updated version of a chapter from The Superorganism, and while very similar, is still a pleasure to have in one volume. The story of the leafcutters is so complex and so amazing it deserves special attention.

As a natural history, The Leafcutter Ants is as good as gets. It is a detailed and thoroughly researched book by two of the best myrmecologists in the world. It is well organized, taking the reader through the evolution of social ants to the life cycle and the wonderful peculiarities of leafcutters. The book is at times dense with science, but it is well worth slowing down a bit to follow the ultimately very clear presentation. The book will be of interest to both lay and scientific readers. It will also be a pleasure for anyone interested in the unexpected.
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