Lord of the Ants
Meet Ed Wilson. His early fascination with ants led him to a scientific career that sought answers to the origins of life. His discoveries have caused heated debates, yet they have won him a Pulitzer Price. Today, he campaigns for biodiversity and fights to conserve the world’s endangered species.
According to Wilson, there’s an instinctive affinity for living things that all humans possess. It’s what draws us to natural environments like parks. This love for the living is called biophilia. Most living things are smaller than the eye can see, however. For example, under a small patch of dirt are layers and layers of organisms, most still undiscovered by scientists.
Early in his career, Ed Wilson was granted the unique opportunity of working with Stuart Alltman on Monkey Island off the coast of Puerto Rico. The island is now home to over 900 macaques. These were originally shipped from India in the 1930s for medical studies. Both scientists agree that ants and primates have the most complex social systems of all living things.
In 2003, Ed Wilson began working on his dream: a listing of every living creature on the planet. He called this project The Encyclopedia of Life. In this electronic compilation, each living specie would have its own page where everything we know about it would be shared, and new information would be added as it became available. His dream is now a reality as The Smithsonian Institute, Harvard University, and other institutions pool their resources to contribute to this electronic encyclopedia that now has over 1.8 million entries.
Ed was inspired by ants. Their organization fascinates him. He has studied their signals, identifying the ways in which they communicate with each other. His studies shed light on how animals in general communicate with pheromones—chemicals they taste and smell. His studies led him to coin the term “sociobiology.” His fascination with ants is contagious. After watching this documentary, you’ll no longer see ants as mere pests to be destroyed.