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No. 16: Summer 1981

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Why are there no slave ant rebellions?

Some ant species regularly raid the nests of other ants and carry some of them off into slavery. An oft-discussed question is: Why don't the slaves rebel or at least try to escape back to their home nest? There seems to be no evolutionary advantage in remaining in passive slavery promoting the fortunes of the slave-makers. The opportunities to run off and rebel are never taken. It would seem that slave-ant passivity is a marked disadvantage that has slipped through evolution's net. Regardless of the reason, an imbalance exists.

(Gladstone, Douglas E.; "Why There Are No Ant Slave Rebellions," American Naturalist, 117:779, 1981.)

Comment. Perhaps evolution just hasn't had time to redress the situation and even now is preparing clever mutations to rescue the slave ants; i.e., improve their fitness.

From Science Frontiers #16, Summer 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss