The Lives of Ants.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Narguizian, Paul
Pub Date: 08/01/2010
Publication: Name: The American Biology Teacher Publisher: National Association of Biology Teachers Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Biological sciences; Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 National Association of Biology Teachers ISSN: 0002-7685
Issue: Date: August, 2010 Source Volume: 72 Source Issue: 6
Topic: NamedWork: The Lives of Ants (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Keller, Laurent; Gordon, Elizabeth
Accession Number: 245037771
Full Text: The Lives of Ants. By Laurent Keller and Elisabeth Gordon. 2009. Oxford University Press (ISBN 9780199541867). 252 pages. Hardcover. $27.95.

We Homo sapiens may think we rule the world. However, ants outnumber us a million to one. And little can stand in their way! For hundreds of years, these tiny creatures have spurred our curiosities and fascinated us. Ancient Greeks have written about their wisdom, Brazilians have admired their strength, and children and adults alike have flocked to see science fiction movies about ants such as the 1950s classic Them and the more recent 1990s animated film, A Bug's Life. Like us, ants live in complex societies, they have a caste system, they defend their territories, and they landscape their gardens. The Lives of Ants provides educators, scientists, and entomological neophytes with an engaging account "of their lives, loves, wars, and family feuds, and the biology and social behavior that drives them." Laurent Keller, a leading biologist who works on ants, teams up with science writer Elisabeth Gordon to give the reader a concise yet in-depth understanding of the natural history of ant societies. Of special importance are recent investigations into the molecular biology, genetics, and animal behavior of ants that allow them to "be seen in a new light" and reveal "a range of ways of life that for many years went unrecognized."

In The Lives of Ants, the reader is confronted with intriguing questions, such as "How can such tiny creatures have evolved such complex behavior?" and "How can ants create such ordered societies?" and "What makes some female ants end up as queens, while many others are doomed to life as barren workers?" As fascinating as these questions may seem, the answers provided by the authors are even more engaging. The central thesis of the book deals with the ecological success of ants and their interest to life scientists. Along with addressing the natural history of ants, Keller and Gordon offer current key applications from ant research to the fields of robotics, bioengineering, and computer science. In doing so, The Lives of Ants reveals the unending relationship between humans and ants. While other specialized books of this type can at times be lengthy and boring to read, The Lives of Ants is able to clearly explain to the expert ant entomologist (or myrmecologist) and layperson alike the immensely interesting chemical-communication and social-order systems found within different species of ants. As a result, the reader is left with an unending desire to learn more about these truly fascinating creatures.

This is a well-written and very engaging book that provides the reader with a scientific understanding along with a historical and philosophical appreciation of the world of ants and their importance to the balance of nature. The Lives of Ants provides both biology students and teachers an opportunity to appreciate the science behind the beauty and wonder of these magnificent little creatures and will be an extremely welcome addition to a science classroom or laboratory bookshelf.

DOI: 10.1525/abt.2010.72.6.14

Paul Narguizian

Associate Professor

Department of Biological Sciences

College of Natural & Social Sciences

California State University, Los Angeles

5151 State University Drive

Los Angeles, CA 90032-8201
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.