The Miracle In The Ant

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  • The Miracle In The Ant


    Chapter 4


    There is a basic logic to be used in analyzing evidence of the creation of living beings. We can explain this logic with a simple example.

    While walking on barren land, you suddenly find a metal key on the ground. Imagine that you pick up this key without knowing what it's good for and you keep on walking. Again imagine that you come up to an empty house a few hundred metres from where you found the key. And again imagine that you try the key in the lock of the house, thinking it might work.

    If the key opens the door of this house easily, what conclusion do you arrive at logically?

    It is simple. You conclude that this key belongs to the door of this house. That is, it has been designed specially to open this lock. It is obvious that the same craftsman has manufactured both the lock and the key. Therefore the harmony between them is the product of a conscious design.

    Yet, if somebody says to you, "You're wrong. The key you found bears no relation to that lock. It is pure coincidence that that key fits that lock, what do you think?" Of course, you will find this proposition deficient in logic, because in this world there are millions of locks and millions of keys that do not fit. It is obviously impossible for two that fit perfectly, out of millions of different ones, to be located beside each other coincidentially.

    Especially if the said key is quite complex with all kinds of ins and outs, that is if it is not straight and simple like a room key. The claim of "coincidence" becomes even more absurd because, each detail on the key must have its counterpart in the lock as well, thus decreasing the probability of this coincidence millions of times.

    If there are three locks to the door and you have found not one but three keys lying beside each other and all three keys have each opened one of the locks, would you believe an allegation that these keys are pieces of metal that fit the locks by chance? Furthermore, would you not think that the person who makes such a claim either has mental problems or is trying to deceive you and hide something from you?

    The logical result presented by this example is simple but very significant: If there is a one-to-one fit between two independent pieces, that is, all details of these two pieces are in perfect harmony, this proves that there is a deliberate design somewhere. The key fits the lock because it has been consciously made by a skilled craftsman. A video cassette goes into a video machine easily and sits in it perfectly because it has been designed by a purposeful designer.

    Looking at all these, the following general solution may be arrived at. If there is harmony between two living beings which is realized by the perfect fit of different organs, we can say that this harmony is clear proof of conscious creation. Since the existing harmony indicates a consciousness that may not be explained by chance and since the source of this consciousness may not be these animals, it is inevitable that we accept the existence of a conscious Creator Who "designs" these animals.

    Now, we can re-enter the world of the ants by using this fundamental logic. Our subject in this chapter is certain living beings, who live together and show striking harmony with the ants.


    Animals Who Live Together With the Ants

    It has been known for over a century that many species of insects exist which live together with the ants and that there are symbiotic relations between them. Many of these do this as ransackers. The others live as dependants for part or all of their lives in the ant colony. These parasitic visitors of ants include various insects, such as sacred beetles, ticks, flies and wasps.

    Some of these may live in the ant nests and benefit from all social rights. In certain cases, the ants tolerate them, although they eat the larvae and eggs of their hosts. They are not only admitted into the nest, but their larvae are fed and raised as if they were the hosts'.

    Well, why do the ants allow such aggression and how is it that these insects can stay in the nest of an ant which has had a superior defence system for years? Let us analyze the phases of this inexplicable phenomenon.

    As you know, there is a complex communication system within the ant colony. Because of this system, the ants may distinguish members of their colonies from strangers. This distinguishing ability serves as "a social defence system". However, the visitors we mention above manage to get into the ant nests by various techniques. This shows that they have somehow solved the communication and distinguishing ciphers of the ants. In other words, they have the ability to talk ant language by mechanical and chemical methods.



    There is a typical movement that an ant makes when it meets another ant. It touches the other ant lightly with its antenna and checks its pheromones. Then, both ants go on their way. It is known that they do this to identify each other and to protect themselves from alien creatures.  

    Worker ants do the same thing when they meet insects living in their nests. Sometimes they realize that the other creature is someone different and throw it out of the nest. Yet sometimes they treat the other insect as if it were an ant. This acceptance takes place due to chemical mimicry by the said insects.

    It has been conclusively accepted that insects achieve this mimicry totally by chemicals, because ants have thrown out insects very similar to them physically when they found them different chemically. Yet certain parasites that have no resemblance to ants at all have been accepted as if they were members of the ant nest.44 It is very difficult to explain how such insect species learn to imitate the chemical characteristics of the ants. Such a thing can only be explained by these pheromones being added to these insects by design. An insect could not solve a chemical reaction, even if it lived for millions of years. Therefore, it must have acquired such characteristics by the conscious design of the Creator.


    Hydrocarbon-Producing Insect and Fire Ants

    The scarabaeid beetle, which is an insect species, and fire ants are able to live together, because the hydrocarbons they are coated with are identical. It is quite astonishing that a harmonious relationship exists between these two living beings, despite the fact that the beetles prey on the ants. Then how can this harmony be explained?  

    These beetles are coated with a series of hydrocarbons identical to those of one of their fire ant hosts. They also possess a second set of high-molecular-weight hydrocarbons peculiar to themselves. When their adults are isolated from the ant hosts, they lose the hydrocarbons they share with their hosts but retain their own, heavier hydrocarbons. When subsequently introduced into colonies of a second fire ant host species, this time they acquire the hydrocarbons of this ant host species.45  

    When the beetle first enters the nest of the fire ants, it depends on its heavily armored exoskeleton and tries to protect itself by pretending that it is dead. In a few days, after enough hydrocarbons are absorbed by the beetle, it gains full acceptance into the ant society.46  

    How can an insect of this species imitate any odor and secrete it in its own body? How does it know that by producing this odor it will be able to fool the ants into admitting it to their nest? Can a bug achieve all this on its own?

    Of course not. Getting to know the ants by their chemical and physical characteristics is just not something that a bug can do on its own. It would be quite absurd to say that these bugs have gone through evolution by living with the ants for a long time and eventually developed the ability to produce the odor of the ants chemically. No mutation or coincidence can lead to the development of such a complex characteristic. The only possible conclusion is the existence of a Creator, Who has given powers of recognition and mimicry to this bug. The One Who makes it possible for ants and bugs to exist in harmony together and Who prevents their acting in a hostile manner towards each other, is Allah, the Creator of the two animal species.


    Visitors of Army Ants

    There are mites that live on the bodies of army ants. One of these mite species feeds on the blood taken from the terminal membranous  lobe of the hind part of the ant they live on, or the fatty secretions on the bodies of their hosts. Sometimes these mites live on the tip of the rear leg of the ant and, at times, they allow their whole bodies to be used by the host ant as a substitute for the terminal segment of the foot.  

    As explained before, army ants form clusters by hooking their tarsal claws over the legs of other workers when they form temporary nests. In small laboratory nests, it has been observed that when a worker hooked the leg with the mite onto the nest or another worker, the hind legs of the mite usually served in place of the ant's tarsal claws. These mites, with their holdfast mechanisms such as teeth on their enlarged dorsa, have been equipped with appropriate posterior formations that adapt the mites to specific regions of the hosts' bodies.47

    It is impossible that these two creatures who are complementary to each other, have found each other among thousands of species living in nature only by a lucky chance. The probability of these two species – which depend on each other for survival – having met one day, having seen that their bodies were suitable for co-existence and having decided on symbiosis is zero. Therefore, this perfect harmony is likewise just another one of the details showing perfect creation by Allah. Yet these small details are too valuable to pass by. These examples, of which we may witness thousands or millions every day, have been created so that man may see the infinite power, the knowledge and the fine art of Allah.


    Smart Fly Larva

    The bodies of the ants form a very suitable location for parasitic beings. Therefore many species of parasites choose as their homes the bodies of ants. The Strongygaster globula, which is a type of fly, deserves special mention.  

    The larvae of this fly develop as endoparasites inside the gaster of colony-founding queen. The behaviour of the infected queen is not noticeably affected apart, except that they cease to lay eggs. When the last-instar larva of the parasite leaves the body of the host, it quickly pupates and is groomed and tended by the host ants as if it were a member of the ants' own brood. Yet, during the flying phase, this friendly attitude is abandoned and the fly is forced to leave the nest and the queen ant dies after the parasites leave the nest.48

      In these pictures, six different parasite species that live on the army ants are seen. These parasites have settled on the ants in different symbiotic adaptations.  
    (1) The parasite on the top feeds on the body fluids of the ant on which it inhabits.  

    (2) The second parasite is a type of mite and lives on the tip of the foot of its host.  

    (3) This interesting parasite species deceives the ants and feeds on their larvae.
    (4) This species spends most of its time on the worker ants. 

    (5) It has chosen the tip of the ant's chin as its home.  

    (6) This parasite species has settled in the antenna root of the ant. 

    The settling of fly larvae on the body of the ant, and its living on it, is truly an exceptional situation. It is impossible for a newly born creature to have chosen the body of a queen ant as a home for itself. The choosing by the mother fly of such a location to lay her eggs can be possible only if she has a prior and thorough knowledge of the body and life style of the ant. Because in its own habitat, there are hundreds of different living species that it may leave its eggs on. The fly, which is attentive towards its babies, identifies the most suitable one and for its home, selects the queen ant. However, it is impossible for her to anticipate that her eggs will grow here under protection and that the ants will in fact take care of them. Because a fly is a totally different creature from an ant and it is impossible for it to know anything about the ant.

    Then we can say that this correct decision made by the fly is not the result of "foreseeing the future" by this small animal, but a program within it, in other words, a given inspiration. The One Who places the larva in the most appropriate living area is Allah, Who is totally sovereign over the fly and the ant and has infinite knowledge of them, because He is the Creator, Owner and Sovereign of all living beings.


    Secret of Blue Butterflies

    In 1979, the large blue butterfly died out from its last breeding sites in England. Researchers who studied were not able to find out for a long time why the butterfly disappeared as there seemed to be plenty of the right habitat (rough grassland), with lots of the wild thyme plants on which the butterfly lays its eggs. Actually, the secret was hidden in the amazing life cycle of the butterfly. 

    In the picture on the left we see the large blue butterfly after leaving the ant nest. The picture on the right shows the blue butterfly caterpillar before meeting the ants
    In the picture on the right, the mimicing caterpillar is taken by the ant to its own nest. The picture on the left shows the blue butterfly caterpillar living among the larvae in the ant nest

    After the caterpillars hatch, they feed on thyme for about three weeks. Then they drop to the ground and give out a liquid that is attractive to red ants. When a red ant appears, the caterpillar rears up and swells the skin behind its head, tricking the ant into thinking it is one of its own grubs. The ant carries the caterpillar back to its nest, and it lives in the nest for almost a year, feeding on the ant grubs and spending the winter in hibernation. In spring, it makes a silk cocoon. While inside the cocoon, it slowly changes into an adult butterfly, before finally leaving the nest in midsummer.

    The discovery of this parasitism has eliminated the shroud of secrecy over the extinction of the butterfly species. Due to an ecological change in the region, the red ants had moved away and the caterpillars that hatched there were killed by other ant species, which were not fooled by them.49  

    Now, the questions to be answered are the following: Could this co-existence have been formed by luck? How does the butterfly – as a caterpillar, which is not even an adult butterfly yet – know how to fool an ant? How have the organs come into being which make it possible for it to look like an ant when inflating its back? Since evolutionists do not accept conscious creation, they would argue that these organs have emerged by coincidence. Yet no coincidence can result in such a perfect likeness. It is impossible for this similarity to have formed in time in stages, because a caterpillar which has not yet acquired this likeness would be hunted down by the ants and would not be able to survive. Since it is impossible for the caterpillar to give shape to itself consciously, the only answer is that this animal was given its shape and made to resemble the ant by a Creating Will, that is, Allah.


    Parasites that are Fed from the Mouth of the Ant

    A type of parasite beetle called Dinarda, patrols through the peripheral nest chambers, where they feed on arthropod prey brought in by the host ants. It also taps into the liquid flow of its hosts. This parasite wanders around the peripheral chambers of the nest where the newly returning foragers and nest workers share food. Its tactic is to furtively touch the labium of an ant, causing the ant to regurgitate a small droplet of food. Actually, by this feeding method, it places itself in enormous danger, because once the ant realizes that the parasite is a stranger, it is going to assume the attack position. Yet the parasite has taken its precautions against such circumstances. When it sees that the ant is getting ready to attack, it raises its abdomen and offers the ant the appeasement secretions at the abdominal tip. The attack ceases as soon as the ant licks the abdominal tip, and the parasite makes its escape during this brief interlude.50  


    Smart Immigrants

    Some insect species (Atemeles) emigrate from the ant nest (Formica) where they have been raised during the summer, to the nests of another ant genus (Myrmica). After wintering there, they return to their original nest to breed in the springtime. There is of course a reason for these moves: In the Formica nests, the immature stages disappear during the winter, and consequently social food flow is reduced. In contrast, the Myrmica colony maintains brood throughout the winter and high-grade food sources are available for the Atemeles.51

    In the picture on the left, we see the food exchange between a bug and an ant.   

    Above, the bug touches the ant with its antennae. In the middle, the bug taps the ant's mouth with its forelegs.   

    At the bottom, the ant presents a drop of liquid food to the mimicing bug









    The Atameles face a major problem in finding their way from one host species to another. The Formica nests normally occur in woodland and the Myrmica nests are found in grassland around the woods. The Atameles that leave the Formica nest have discovered a very important method of finding their way: they orient towards light and reach the relatively open Myrmica habitat. Yet when they arrive there, another problem awaits them. They have to distinguish the Myrmica ants from the other species present and locate their nests. Research has revealed that the migrants identify the Myrmica nests innately by specific odors.52 In short, these immigrants have the capacity to distinguish between the odors of ant colonies, apart from their skill in finding their direction by the aid of light.

    These migrants who change nests twice a year are very interesting, because they are accepted by both ant species and are able to adapt to the nest environment immediately. Wasmann, who has been doing research on ants for many years, believes that this species is the most advanced cohabitant with its still unsolved adaptation method. They have a very astonishing feature that they use in getting themselves admitted to the nest they are migrating to. These migrants have appeasement glands, the secretions of which are immediately licked up by the ant and suppress aggressive behaviour. This chemical is so strong that it was observed that the ants treat the parasite a lot more "gently" when they spurt this secretion on to their host ants.53 

    In the drawing above, an Atemeles bug has itself    carried to the ant nest by way of a special substance it gives out











    Such conscious activities of migrant bugs set one to thinking. As this bug knows when to move to which nest, it must know ants in every way. Then how has this migration adventure started? First of all, it must choose among many species of insects and decide to cohabit in an ant nest. After making this tough selection among hundreds of species of insects, it must pick the one most suitable for it among 8800 ant species and then realize that the food supply of the selected ants is decreasing during winter. Then after noticing this, it must discover the nest where food is abundant in winter. The creature who has to make all these decisions is an insect such as we will probably never come across in our entire lives. It is quite illogical to expect an insect to make such decisions.

    Still, even if we believe that this system has developed in such a way, the questions we face do not come to an end. How does this insect arrive at the nest while moving from one nest to the other? When it's very difficult to find the way in the forest even for an intelligent person, how can a migrant insect which is one thousandth the size of a man contrive to find an ant hill in a huge forest?

    The answer, "by orienting toward light" does not really provide any explanation, because light may be coming from at least 2-3 different fronts. There are areas many square metres wide, where it arrives by orienting toward light, before the nest it seeks may be found. (Let us not forget that for a creature the size of an insect, an area measured in square metres is the same as several square kilometres for us). Here, the odor recognition process starts, but that too is quite astonishing, because it is very difficult to distinguish a single odor from all the others in a forest where hundreds of ant colonies live and where also thousands of different odors other than those of the ants exist. Moreover, it is interesting that an insect, which spends a whole summer somewhere else, can keep this odor in its memory.

    Lastly, let us think about the following: even if we pick up this insect and put it in front of the entry to the suitable ant nest ourselves, it will be very difficult for it to live in it because, as we know, ants also have very strong recognition ability. As they do not accept even an ant which does not belong to their colony, they will of course  treat this insect as hostile and will throw it out of the nest. However, things do not turn out like this and the insect is treated quite hospitably. It is argued that this is because of the positive effect of a chemical which it gives out from its body. Then how does the migrant insect know that it can influence the ants with this substance and understand that it can reverse this hostile behaviour? Has it succeeded in producing the ideal substance by deciding to manufacture it itself?

    Of course, it is impossible to answer these questions positively. There is an obvious picture that one can see. The said insect is doing things which require serious intelligence and a sense of judgement. Yet, it would be absurd to think of the ability to think and to judge in such a creature as does not even have a brain. We have to admit that the source of intelligence in the things the insect does is another power "outside" the animal.

    Evolutionists have produced the phrase intuition to overcome this dead end that they are facing, and they have argued that animal behaviour is the result of certain motives of unknown source. Yet this phrase is just whitewashing and does not change anything. The picture is still clear: There are motives which dominate the animal that are the result of an intelligent programming. Since there is no intelligent programming by the animal itself, the source of such motives must be another power ruling the animal. This power belongs to Him Who is not seen, but rules over the visible world with supreme wisdom and reflects such knowledge in living beings, like insects, which are themselves not endowed with consciousness.


    Insect that Feigns Death

    Ant nests provide a high concentration of food resources, a refuge from predators and severe climatic change for a beetle genus that lives in the deserts of the southwestern USA and Mexico. Once these beetles manage to integrate themselves into an ant society, they directly go to a brooding room and feed on ant larvae.  

    These have developed various techniques to get inside an ant nest. Some species march directly through the nest entrance, or burrow through thatch piles into the interior. The beetles are very well protected by their heavily sclerotized cuticle that the ants are unable to kill them. They can only attack in unison and throw them out.  

    Unsuccessful bugs never give up. This time they feign death when approached by ants, so that they are mistaken for prey items and gain access to the nest. To fool the ants, these bugs expertly feign death by retracting their antennae and sticking out their legs.54  

    Once they reach the egg chambers, the ants for some reason ignore these beetles. Research has shown that while these bugs are feed on ant brood, trichome secretions secreted by the beetle distract workers, reduce aggression, and prevent workers from evacuating brood.55  

    Also these "intelligent" beetles leave their own larvae in the ant nest. Their larvae develop within piles of vegetable matter. Although they lack morphological adaptations for defense from their hosts, they are ignored by ant workers and, even if they are attacked by highly excited ants, they defend themselves against the ants and escape maneuvers.56


    Fly Larvae That Know Ants

    We are going to see a striking and perfect example of creation below: the fly larvae that can do mimicry.

    The larvae of syrphid flies (Microdon) overwinter deep within the ant nest and, in spring, they move to the surface of the nest to pupate. In the course of research, the larvae were observed to disappear immediately upon hatching and they were thought to be dead, with a single remaining larva clinging to the outer surface of an ant cocoon. The magnification revealed the larva becoming rounder and rounder, as if it were exerting pressure to distort its shape. Suddenly, it was simply gone. The larva had inserted its mouth hooks into the silken cocoon and created a hole large enough to allow it to enter. The disappearing larvae were simply inside the cocoons, feeding on the ant pupae and molting into the next larval stage. Microdon larvae, at later stages, folded themselves lengthwise until they were practically indistinguishable from ant cocoons. After this transformation, agitated worker ants arrived, seized the impostor young, and carried them to the safe depths of the nest.57  

    This was an unusual case of mimicry. The ants perceived the fly larvae to be ant cocoons. During research, it was noticed that the chemistry of the outer, hard cuticle of the larval flies and that of larval ants matched almost perfectly. In other words, fly larvae were able to imitate ant cocoons chemically as well.  

    Chemical analysis confirmed that this was a case of true chemical mimicry. Then how could the Microdon larvae employ this mimicry?  

    On the underside of the larvae are elaborate protuberances, the function of which was not known. It is now suspected that they contain glands or glandular openings for secreting the chemicals that the larvae use to mimic their hosts.58

    Then, how can a being who does not even know the meaning of "chemistry" perform such an impersonation? And only the larvae of Microdon flies have such a defence system, never the  adults. Since this ability of impersonation is not known in adult flies, it is not something which can be thought out. This means that the larvae have this ability from birth.

    No coincidence can implant a chemical order in the body of a larva that will cause it to impersonate ants. The only conclusion that may be derived from this event is that the larvae are born into this world already equipped with this feature.


    Woodman Ants and Aphids

    Up until now, what you have read about ants has given you a general idea about the ant world. But this is just the beginning, because there are many different species in the world of ants equipped with characteristics we do not know about. One of them is the "milkman ant" which is also known as the woodman ant.  

    The woodman ants in question obtain milk from leaves via aphids. This cooperation between ants and aphids is one of the most interesting relationships in the whole world of insects.  

    Aphids which are placed on the leaves by ants feed on the phloem sap of plants. The plant sap that enters the body of the aphid is converted into the substance called "honeydew". The ants, which like honeydew, have found a way for aphids to give this food to them. A hungry ant approaches the aphid and starts brushing its abdomen with its feelers and antennae. The aphid likes this very much and emits a droplet of honeydew and gives it to the ant. In return, the ants look after their aphids very well.59  

    In the autumn, the ants pick up the aphid eggs and keep them in their nest until they hatch. Later on, they place the young aphids on the roots of various plants, so that they suck the sap and provide milk to the milkman ants.  

    "Animal Breeder" Ants. Ants, in addition to all their interesting skills, also do "animal breeding". As seen in these pictures, ants make a "flock" for themselves from aphids and use this "flock" to obtain food. In return, they look after their "flock" very well, keeping them by their side, and protecting them against their enemies. The "animal breeding" of ants is, no doubt, an interesting example of symbiosis observed in the world of insects.

    At this point the question would be: When there are thousands of living beings in the world, how do the milkman ants know of this characteristic of the aphids? How can they select them from among all the other creatures?  

    It is, of course, impossible to evaluate as a chain of accidents the fluid that comes out of the aphid being exactly what the ant needs and the ant's knowing what the aphid would like and its patting it against the food it is going to receive. Once again, there is a designed pairing, a great harmony and therefore an obvious creation.


    Plants that Cohabit With Ants

    The East Indian pitcher plant, Nepenths Bicalcarata, harbors ant colonies in the hollow stem of the same pitcher-shaped leaf by which it captures and digests other kinds of insects. Yet the ants are free to roam over this carnivorous plant, gathering insects and other food items of their own. The ants and the plant are engaged in a trade-off of mutual benefit. The ants risk being eaten by the plant, but they get a home. The plant surrenders some tissue space and insect prey to the ants and, in return, gains protection from herbivores.60 


    On the left we see a pitcher plant which is a kind of "insect trap". Yet, this pitcher plant does not serve as a trap for certain insects. For instance, the ant shown on the right is able to live together with the pitcher plant. The plant is disregarding the existence of the ant in an inexplicable fashion.


    This example defines the outlines of symbiosis between plants and ants. The anatomies and physiological structures of the ants and their host plant have been designed to provide this mutual relationship between them. Although defenders of evolution say that these interspecies relationships have gradually grown over millions of years, it is obvious that any claim that two such creatures as have no intelligence could agree to arrange a mutually beneficial system is untenable.

    Then what is it that causes the ants to live on plants?  

    The tendency of the ants to live on plants is the result of sugar-producing organs of the plant called "extrafloral nectaries". When active, nectaries attract worker ants, who tend to defend them from other insects. There is some evidence that the plants time their secretions in a way that enhances the protective role of the nectaries. For instance, the nectaries of the black cherry tree are most active during the first three weeks after budbreak. It is certainly not a coincidence that the same three-week period is the only time that eastern tent caterpillars which are the major defoliators of the black cherry, are small enough to be captured and killed by the ants.61  

    To see how obviously this is evidence of creation, one needs nothing other than normal common sense. It is, of course, impossible to accept that the tree has calculated the period in which it is subject to the most harm and has decided that the best way to protect itself during this period would be to attract ants and that, to this end, it has produced a structural change in its own chemistry. The tree has no brain. Therefore, it can neither think, calculate, nor adjust its own chemicals. To think that this rational procedure is a characteristic acquired as a result of coincidence – which is the logic of evolution – is totally absurd. In a very obvious way,  the tree is doing something which is the result of intelligence and knowledge.

    Therefore, the only conclusion that may be reached here is that this feature of the tree has been formed by the will which has created the tree. It is obvious from the arrangements He has made that He is not only sovereign over the tree but also over the ants and caterpillars. If research is taken beyond this point, it is observable that, in fact, He dominates the whole of nature and has organized each component of nature separately and in harmony, thus founding the perfect system that we call "ecological balance". We can advance further and go into the domains of geology and astronomy. Everywhere we are going to face the same situation, with countless systems that function in harmony within a perfect order. These systems all indicate the existence of an organizer. Yet, none of the entities making up the systems are themselves organizers.

    "Is then He Who creates like one who does not create? Will you not take heed?" (Surat an-Nahl:17)

    Then that organizer must be a Will Who is aware of and sovereign over the whole universe. The Qur'an describes Him as follows:

    He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Giver of Forms. To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: Everything in the heavens and earth glorifies Him. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise. (Surat Al-Hashr: 24)


    The Acacia Tree and Ants

    Acacia trees grow throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world and are protected by thorns. An ant species that lives on African acacias gnaws an entry hole in the walls of the thorns and lives permanently inside the acacia tree. Each colony of ants inhabits the thorns on one or more trees and feeds on the nectars of the acacia leaves. These colonies also eat the caterpillars and other organisms they find on the tree.  

    The symbiosis between acacias and ants is perhaps one of the most interesting in the plant and insect world

    The nectar of the acacia trunk is very rich in oils and proteins. Thomas Belt, who first described these bodies, noted that their only apparent function was to nourish the ants. Ants, which live on these trees, obtain sugars from the nectaries and feed them to their larvae.62  

    What is it that the tree expects from the ants in return for its produce?

    The worker ants, which swarm over the surface of the plant, are very aggressive toward other insects and, indeed, towards animals of all sizes. When their tree is brushed by an animal, they swarm out and attack at once, inflicting painfully burning bites. Moreover, other plants sprouting within as much as a meter of occupied acacias are chewed and mauled, and their bark is girdled. Twigs and branches of other trees that touch an occupied acacia are similarly destroyed.63

    It has been shown that acacia trees which have no ants are more vulnerable to attack by their insect herbivores. In an experiment, it was observed that alien plants that sprouted within a radius of 40 centimeters of the occupied acacia trunks were chewed and mauled by the ants until they died. Ants even attacked other plants whose leaves or branches touched the canopy of the acacia. Up to one-fourth of the entire ant population were active on the surfaces of the control plants, day and night, constantly patrolling and cleaning them. The conclusion researchers have arrived at is as follows: The ants are "kept by the acacia as a standing army".64 Since the awareness which would promote such a negotiation is not within the capability of either side, it must be accepted that this balance must have been established by the will of Allah Who created both parties to the agreement.


     Ant Hotels 

    In some plant species, there are some plant structures called "domatia" in biological terminology. These serve no evident purpose other than to shelter ant colonies. They have holes or thin windows of tissue through which ants can conveniently enter and leave. Species with domatia usually also manufacture food bodies, which are unique structures with no known function other than the feeding of ants. The only function of "food bodies" is just feeding of ants. They have no apparent benefit for the plant.65 In short, domatias are very special structures that are formed so that the ants may maintain their lives. Their temperature and humidity are ideally balanced to suit the ants' requirements. Ants live comfortably in these special places prepared just for them, almost as men do in quality hotels. 

    On the left, an ant is seen on a plant which is an extremely suitable shelter for itself. The holes on the ant serve as "doors" for the ants.

    It is not possible to claim that these structures materialize by luck, that they produce food for ants by coincidence and that they take on need-based forms.  

    Ant-plant relationships are just one of the proofs of the incredible equilibrium created by a sole Creator on this earth. Furthermore, this relationship is mutual. The services ants provide against the services of the plants are very important factors in the plants of the world being so efficient. Ants enrich the earth in carbon by cultivating it, adding nutrition to it by their waste and excretion, and keeping the ambient temperature and humidity at an appropriate level. Therefore, plant species near ant nests are better off than those in other areas.


    Ant Plant and Nitrogen Source Ant

    An ant species (Philidris) and its host plant (Dischidia major) produce a very complex set of chemicals all throughout their lives.  

    This plant has no roots that go underground. Therefore, it winds along other plants to get support. It has a very interesting method for increasing its carbon and nitrogen gain.

    Ants have a storage area in this plant where they raise their young and hide organic residues (dead ants, insect pieces, etc.) called "ant leaf". The plant uses these residues as a source of nitrogen. Also, the interior surfaces of the leaf spaces absorb the carbon dioxide given out by the ant, thus reducing dehydration from the pores.66 Prevention of dehydration is very important for  these ant plants that grow in tropical climates, because they can never reach the water in the soil, since they have no roots. Thus, ants provide for two important needs of the plant in return for its providing shelter for them.



    Above is a plant that is fed by its "fenants". This plant also serves as a "home" for the ants.










    Ants That Feed Their Hosts

    Certain ants feed their host plants. Just such a relationship has been documented in the genera Hydnophytum and Myrmecodia. The workers of Myrmecodia discard the remains of prey in the cavities lined with absorptive tissues, while sequestering their own brood in special chambers lined with tough, nonabsorptive cells. Ants live in these chambers but make an interesting differentiation between them. The absorptive surfaces are dotted with small lenticular warts. Each of the two zones serves a separate function, namely the feeding of the plant and the housing of the ant brood.

    Scientists have carried out a very interesting test on this subject. Using radioactive tracers, they demonstrated that this differentiation is indeed the case. The pseudobulbs absorbed phosphate, sulfate, and methionine from waste material deposited by the worker ants, as well as various breakdown products of decomposing Drosophila larvae. Most of the activity was concentrated in the warted areas. In short, the ants feed the plants.67


    Piper Plant ad Brown Ant

    The relationship between the piper plant and the ants is perhaps the most interesting of all these we have looked at so far. The ant plant called piper (treelets in the black pepper family) grows in the shade of the tropical forest of Central America. It is a plant that provides both food and shelter for brown ants (Pheidole Bicornis). By the time young Piper trees have just two or three full-sized leaves, one of the leaf bases  - hollow swellings between the branch and the leaf itself – usually contains a Pheidole queen. The queen colonizes a Piper sapling by chewing an entrance hole and laying eggs inside the leaf base. When her eggs first hatch into larvae, she and the young occupy one of the leaf bases, but as the colony grows, the worker ants advance gradually throughout the stem pith tissue, and the entire plant becomes a domicile.68  

    This plant is also a source of food for the ants. The inside surface of the expanded leaf bases produces for them single-celled food bodies. Ants pluck these oil-and protein-rich morsels from the walls and feed them to their larvae.69  

    These rich foods that the ants will perhaps never find elsewhere, are presented to them by the piper. These ants move towards the pipers that will provide them with the best care, shelter and food each year and build their nests in the parts of the plant most suitable for them.

    "Smart" Piper

    The genus Piper that serves as a food source has another very interesting feature. In other plant species, the food bodies grow spontaneously, whereas piper plants do this only when the plant is occupied by ants. Scientists have noticed that food-body production declines precipitously when the brown ants (Pheidoles) are removed, and it commences again when the ants are restored.70  

    Mutual Assistance

    What the piper plant does is not a one-sided sacrifice because, during this mutual living process, the ant also produces nutritional material for its host.  

    When the ant lump in the trunk of the plant decays, it is taken inside the inner soft tissue of the plant as hydrous ammonia. This fluid is very beneficial for the plant. It increases its efficiency. As an addition, the breathing ant colony members increase the carbon dioxide concentration of the plant and ensure its being healthier.  

    Some research has been done to understand if piper ants provide food for their plants and it has been proven that food-seeking Pheidole ants have brought in certain particles like spores, weed pieces and moth scales. Ants keep these foods that they carry in in small sacks in which they keep larvae, and the plant takes in the required minerals from these foods.


    Strategy Expert, Pheidole

    Pheidole ants are quite peaceful. They move slowly. They neither attack, nor bite. Yet these ants use a shrewd strategy to protect themselves and their hosts, the Piper plants.  

    Such ants perform their service by removing the eggs and early developmental stages of the herbivores instead of facing down the adults. They patrol new leaves of the plant, which are the most susceptible to insect damage. Then, in an experiment, termite eggs were placed on Piper bushes, the ants discovered more than 75 percent and dropped them off the plants within an hour. Pheidole chew through or push aside alien vines from their host plants, and also bring nutrients to the plant cavities as part of their nest material. 71


    Invader Aphid

    Another creature who harms the piper is the invader wheat aphid (Ambates melanobs). The wheat aphid attacks the majority of plants without ants and kills them by piercing the trunk of the plant through to the inside. But these micro invaders cannot be very successful if the plant has ant guards. Ants attack the defenceless soft built wheat aphid larvae as soon as they start tunnelling into the inner part of the trunk. Strategist ants who defend the plant, they live on against all kinds of invasions and also protect the ecological balance with this feature of theirs.  

    The plant and ants co-existing in such harmony cannot be explained by coincidences. The picture we build up from the information given right throughout this entire chapter shows us species that are different from each other but who have been created for full cooperation.

    At the beginning of this chapter, we have given a similar example of such harmony: The relationship between a key and the lock it opened. There was a single explanation for the harmony between these two separate objects. The lock and the key were both made by the same master, that is, they were consciously designed. In the examples of cooperation we meet in nature, the same logic applies. The ant and the plant cooperate because they are the products of conscious design. Neither is the ant dominant over the plant, nor is the reverse true. Incapable of forming ideas, they are both simply acting under the inspiration of their Creator, and thus are able to maintain a reciprocity that allows them to pursue their lives on earth.

    The task for people, then, is to see this conscious creation and recognize its owner. Yet, many do not think about this, nor do they care. The following verses state in the best way possible this perfect creation by Allah and the blindness of people towards it:

    Mankind! An example has been made, so listen to it carefully. Those whom you call besides Allah are not even able to create a single fly, even if they were to join together to do it. And if a fly steals something from them, they cannot get it back. How feeble are both the seeker and the sought! They do not measure Allah with His true measure. Allah is All-Strong, Almighty.(Surat al-Hajj: 73-74)

    44 Bert Hölldobler-Edward O.Wilson, The Ants, Harvard University Press, 1990, p. 512.  
    45 Ibid, p. 204.  
    46 Ibid.  
    47 Ibid, p. 486-487.  
    48 Ibid, p. 489.  
    49 Ecology, Michael Scott, Oxford University Press, New York, 1995, p. 33.  
    50 Bert Hölldobler-Edward O.Wilson, The Ants, Harvard University Press, 1990, p. 497-498.   
    51 Ibid, p. 500.  
    52 Ibid.  
    53 Ibid, p. 504.  
    54 Ibid, p. 507.  
    55 Ibid  
    56 Ibid, p. 506.  
    57 Ibid, p. 493.  
    58 Natural History, 1/94, Gregory Paulson and Roger D.Akre.  
    59 Bert Hölldobler-Edward O.Wilson, The Ants, Harvard University Press, 1990, p. 522-523.  
    60 Ibid, p. 530.  
    61 Ibid, p. 548.  
    62 Ibid, p. 531.  
    63 National Geographic Documentary  
    64 Bert Hölldobler-Edward O.Wilson, The Ants, Harvard University Press, 1990, p. 532  
    65 Ibid, p. 534-535  
    66 Geo Magazine, October 1995, p. 186  
    67 Bert Hölldobler-Edward O.Wilson, The Ants, Harvard University Press, 1990, p. 549  
    68 Natural History, 10/93, p. 4-8  
    69 Natural History, 10/93, p. 6  
    70 Bert Hölldobler-Edward O.Wilson, The Ants, Harvard University Press, 1990, p. 547  
    71 Ibid p. 535

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