Communication In Society
The Qur'an supplies an interesting piece of information
when talking about Prophet Sulayman's armies and mentions that there
is an advanced "communications system" among the ants. The verse
is as follows:
Then, when they reached the valley of the
ants, an ant said,'Ants! Enter your dwellings so that Sulayman and
his troops do not crush you unwittingly.' (Surat an-Naml: 18)
The scientific research made on ants in this century has shown that
there is an incredible communications network among these creatures.
In an article published in the National Geographic magazine, this
point is explained:
Huge and tiny, an ant carries in her
head multiple sensory organs to pick up chemical and visual signals
vital to colonies that may contain a million or more workers,
all of which are female. The brain contains half a million nerve
cells; eyes are compound; antennae act as nose and fingertips.
Projections below the mouth sense taste; hairs respond to touch.7
Even if we do not notice it, the ants have quite a different
method of communication in virtue of their sensitive sensing organs.
They employ these sense organs at every moment of their lives, from
finding their prey to following each other, from building their
nests to fighting. They have a communication system which astonishes
us, as human beings with intellect, with their 500,000 nerve cells
squeezed into their bodies of 2 or 3 millimetres. What we should
keep in mind here is that the half a million nerve cells and the
complex communication system mentioned above belongs to an ant which
in bulk is almost one millionth of a human being.
In research done on social creatures
like ants, bees and termites, who live in colonies, the responses
of these animals in the communication process are listed under several
main categories: Alarm, recruitment, grooming, exchange of oral
and anal liquid, group effect, recognition, caste determination…8
The ants, who constitute an orderly social structure
with these various responses, lead a life based on mutual news exchange
and they have no difficulty in achieving this correspondence. We
could say that ants, with their impressive communication system,
are hundred percent successful on subjects that human beings sometimes
cannot resolve nor agree upon by talking (e.g. meeting, sharing,
cleaning, defence, etc.)
News Exchange Between Groups Of Ants
First, scout ants go to food source that has been
newly discovered. Then they call other ants by a liquid they secrete
in their glands called pheromone(*). When the crowd round the food
gets bigger, this pheromone secretion issues the workers a limit again.
If the piece of food is very small or far away, the scouts make an
adjustment in the number of ants trying to get to the food by issuing
signals. If a nice piece of food is found, the ants try harder to
leave more traces thus more ants from the nest come to the aid of
the foragers. Whatever happens, no problems arise in the consumption
of the food and its transportation to the nest, because what we have
here is perfect "team work".
PHEROMONES: Is composed of the words "pher" – carrying, and
"hormone" – hormone and it means "hormone carriers". Pheromones
are signals used between members of the same species and they
are usually produced in special glands to be spread around.
Communication by pheromones is widespread among insects.
Pheromone acts as a tool of sexual attraction between females
and males. The type which is analyzed most is the one used
by moths as the substance of mating. A female gypsy moth
may influence male moths few kilometres away by producing
a pheromone called "disparlure". Since the male is able
to sense a few hundred molecules of the signaling female
in just one milliliters of air, disparlure is effective
even when dispersed over a very large area.
Pheromones play an important role in insect communications,
the ants using pheromones as tracers to show the way to
food sources. When a honey bee stings, not only does it
leave its needle in the skin of its victim, but it also
leaves a chemical that calls the other honey bees to attack.
Similarly, worker ants of many species secrete pheromones
as an alarm substance to be used when threatened by an enemy;
the pheromone is dispersed in the air and gathers other
workers. If these ants meet the enemy, they also produce
pheromones, thus the signal either increases or decreases
depending upon the nature of the danger.
Another example relates to the forager ants who
migrate from one nest to another. These ants advance towards the old
nest from the newly found nest by leaving a trace behind. Other workers
examine the new nest and if they are convinced, they also start leaving
their own pheromones (chemical traces) on top of the old trace. Therefore,
the ants going between the two nests increase in number and these
prepare the nest. During this work, the worker ants do not stay idle.
They set up a certain organization and division of labour between
themselves. The tasks assumed group-wide by the ants who detect the
new nest are as follows:
1. Acting as gatherers in the new area.
2. Coming to the new area and keeping watch.
3. Following the guards to receive the meeting instruction.
4. Making a detailed survey of the area.
Of course, we cannot take it for granted without pondering at all
that this perfect action plan has been in practice by the ants since
day one of their existence, because the division of labour required
by such a plan may not have been applied by individuals who thought
only of their own lives and interests. Then the following question
comes to mind: "Who has been inspiring this plan in the ants for
millions of years and who ensures its application?" Naturally, great
intellect and power are needed for the incredibly superior group
communication required by this action plan. The truth of the matter
is obvious. Allah, the Creator of all living beings and possessor
of infinite wisdom, shows us the way to being able to comprehend
His power by displaying to us this systematic world of the ants.
All of the communication categories listed above
may be grouped under the heading of: "Chemical Signals". These chemical
signals play the most important role in the organization of ant colonies.
Semiochemicals is the general name given to the chemicals the ants
utilize for the purpose of establishing communication. Basically,
there are two kinds of semiochemicals: Their names are pheromones
Allomone is a material used for inter-genus
communication. Yet pheromone, as explained before, is a chemical
signal which is mostly used within a genus and, when secreted by
an ant, can be perceived by another as a smell. This chemical is
thought to be produced in the endocrine glands. When an ant secretes
this fluid as a signal, the others get the message by way of smell
or taste and respond. The research done on ant pheromones has revealed
that all signals are secreted in accordance with the needs of the
colony. Also, the concentration of the pheromone secreted by the
ants varies in terms of the urgency of the situation.9
As one can see, an in-depth knowledge of chemistry is
needed to manage the tasks performed by the ants. We human beings
can resolve the chemicals the ants produce only by tests we perform
in laboratories, plus we go through years of education to be able
to do this. Yet ants can secrete these whenever they need to, and
have been doing so since the day they were born, and they know quite
well what response to give to which secretion.
Communication between ants may be established by transmission
of chemical signals by way of scent or taste
The fact that they accurately identify the chemicals
right from the time they are born shows the existence of an "Instructor"
who gives them chemistry education at birth. To claim the opposite
would mean that the ants have learned chemistry over time and that
they have started making experiments: this would be in violation
of logic. The ants know these chemicals without having had any education
when they were born. We cannot say that another ant or another living
creature is the "teacher" of the ant either. No insect, no living
creature – including human beings – has the capacity to teach ants
how to manufacture chemicals and establish communication by these
substances. If there is an act of teaching before birth, the only
will which would be able to achieve this act is that of Allah, Who
is the Creator of all living things and "the Lord (Educator)" of
the heavens and earth.
Many people do not even know the meaning of "pheromone"
– something that ants secrete continuously in their daily lives.
Yet, each new-born ant performs in a perfect social communication
system because of these chemicals; a social communication system
which leaves no room for doubting the existence of a Creator with
There are basically a few endocrine glands where the
complex chemical reactions we have talked about so far take place.
Secretions produced in six endocrine glands provide this inter-ant
chemical correspondence. However, these hormones do not display
the same characteristics in each species of ant; each endocrine
gland has a separate function in different species of ants. Now
let us take a close look at these endocrine glands:
Dufour's Glands: The hormones produced in these
glands are used in commands for alarm and meeting for attack.
The Venom Sack: An extensive formic acid production
takes place in the venom sack. Also the venom which is produced
to be used during attack and defence is formed here. The best example
of this hormone is found in the fire ant. The venom of these ants
may paralyse small animals and hurt human beings.
In a forest
inhabited by ants who produce formic acid, researchers found formic
acid at a level that could not be explained. All theories that were
set forth were proven wrong and all research done produced no results.
Eventually scientists concluded that formicine ants may be responsible
for much of the formic acid found in previously unexplained quantities
in the atmosphere above the Amazon forest and other habitats rich
in these insects. It is estimated, very roughly, that formicine
ants may release 1012 grams of formic acid globally each year. That
is, these micro-creatures are able to produce formic acid on a scale
that can even influence the atmosphere of the region they live in
without any harm coming to themselves and this perplexes the researchers.10
Pygidial Glands: Three different species of ants use the secretions
produced by these glands as their alarm system. The large desert
harvester ant transmits this hormone in the form of a strong smell
and issues a panic alarm; and the Pheidole biconstricta, which is
a species of ant living in south America, utilizes the secretion
it produces in these glands in chemical defence and attack alarms.
Sternal Glands: The secretions here are used during colony migrations
and tracking prey and in gathering the "soldiers" together. The
most original function of this secretion is to lubricate the seventh
abdominal area of the ant that it frequently has to rotate when
spurting out venom. Thus, the turning of its body for spurting venom
becomes easier. Without this gland, which is a microscopic lubricant
production centre, the defence system of the ant would be inefficient.
Yet this is not so, because there is a faultless design
in place: How a tiny ant would turn its body to spray venom has
been established, just as it has been pre-determined where and how
this lubricant needed for reducing strain while rotating this body
shall be produced.
||On the left, we see the
anatomical diagram of the Formica ant species. The brain and
nervous system are shown in blue, the digestive system in
pink, the heart in red and the endocrine glands and related
structures in yellow: 1. Mandibular gland. 2. Pharynx 3. Pro
pharyngeal gland 4. Post pharyngeal gland 5. Brain 6. Labial
gland 7. Esophagus 8. Nervous system 9. Metapleural gland
10. Heart 11. Stomach 12. Proventriculus 13. Malpighian
sacks 14. Middle intestine 15. Rectum 16. Anus 17. Dufour's
gland 18. Venom sack
It has been determined that the secretions from
these glands are antiseptics, which protect the body surface and the
nest from micro organisms. One active antibiotic component of Attas,
for example, is phenylacetic acid, of which an ant carries an average
of 1.4 micrograms at any given moment. The worker ant regularly releases
small amounts of this mixture that serve as an antiseptic. When
she is attached by enemy ants, she suddenly discharges large quantities
of the metapleural gland secretions, which now function as a powerful
Let us not forget that an ant does not know how to protect itself
from microbes and does not even know of the existence of the microbes.
Yet, its body produces the drug against its enemies without its
knowing. The fact that there is always an antiseptic hormone in
the body of the ant in an amount of 1.4 micrograms is a detail which
has been worked out with great precision. Because He Who created
the ant is the One Who caters for all the needs of all the living
beings He created in the greatest detail, and who is indeed "Gracious".
As demonstrated, all endocrine glands mentioned in this
chapter are units that have vital functions for the ants. A lack
of or the insufficient functioning of any of these has adverse influences
on all of the social and physical life of the ant. In fact, it makes
it impossible for it to stay alive.
This demolishes absolutely the claims of the theory of evolution,
because evolution claims that living beings have developed in stages
and that starting from a primitive form, they have become more advanced
gradually as a result of a series of beneficial coincidences. This
would mean that the ants during the previous stages did not have
part of the physiological characteristics they have today and that
they acquired these later on. However, all the secretions of the
ants we discussed above are vital and without them it is impossible
for an ant species to survive.
Gracious is Allah to His servants: He gives sustenance to whom He
pleases: and He is the Most Strong, the Almighty.(Surat
The conclusion from all this is that the ants were created at the
outset with these endocrine glands and vital functions. That is,
they did not wait for the development of the necessary endocrine
glands for hundreds of thousands of years in order to have a defence
and communications system. Had that been so, it would have been
impossible for the ant genus to have survived. The only explanation
is that the first ant species which existed on earth did so in the
same complete and perfect form as it is in today. A perfect system
cannot be other than the artwork of an intelligent designer. If
we are able today to talk about an ant society with a population
of billions, then we must admit that a single Creator has created
these all at once.
The IdentIty Card of Ants: Colony Odor
We had mentioned previously that the ants can recognize
each other and distinguish their relatives and friends from the
same colony. Zoologists are still investigating how the ants can
recognize their relatives. While man cannot distinguish between
the few ants he may come across, let us see now how these creatures
who are so completely alike can recognize each other.
An ant can
easily detect if another ant is a nestmate or not. A worker ant
casually sweeps her antennae over the other's body to recognize
it, in case it enters the nest. It can immediately distinguish nestmates
from strangers by virtue of the special colony odor it carries.
If the ant who enters the nest is a stranger, the hosts attack this
uninvited guest with extreme violence, locking their mandibles on
body and appendages while stinging or spraying with formic acid,
citronellal, or some other toxic substance. If the guest is a member
of the same species but from a different colony, they can understand
that too. In this case the guest ant is accepted in the nest. However,
the guest ant is offered less food until it acquires the colony
How Is the Colony Odor ObtaIned?
The source of the odor by which kin are recognized
has not been identified with certainty. However, as far as it has
been discovered, ants use hydrocarbons for the odor distinguishing
process among themselves.
The experiments performed have shown that
ants who belong to the same species, but to different colonies,
identify each other by hydrocarbon differences. An interesting experiment
was carried out to understand this. First, the workers in one colony
were washed with solvents containing extracts of workers from alien
colonies of the same species. It was observed that other workers
from the focal colony reacted aggressively to them, whereas the
responding workers reacted in a neutral or at most a mildly agressive
manner to workers washed with extracts of their nestmates.13
Has the Colony Odor Evolved?
A very significant point which has to be carefully
considered with regard to the colony odor is the matter of evolution.
How do the evolution mechanisms explain the fact that ants, or members
of other insect colonies (bees, termites etc.) can recognize their
friends by their exclusive pheromones?
People who try to defend the theory of evolution in spite of all
kinds of impossibilities claim that pheromones are the result of
natural selection (The preservation of beneficial changes occurring
in living beings and elimination of harmful ones). Yet, this is
out of the question for any insect species including ants. A most
striking example on this point is the honey bee. When a honey bee
stings its enemy, it produces a pheromone for notifying the other
bees that there is danger. However, it dies right after this. In
this case, this means that this pheromone is produced only once.
Then, it is impossible for such a "beneficial change" to be transferred
to the following generations and become propagated by natural selection.
This explanation indicates that it is impossible for the chemical
communications between insect species that have the caste system
to have evolved by the method of natural selection. This characteristic
of the insects, which rebuts the theory of natural selection completely,
demonstrates once more that the One who establishes the communications
network among them is the One "who creates them for the first time."
Call of the Ants
Ants have a level of self-sacrifice which is very
advanced and, due to this characteristic, they always invite their
friends to each source of food they find and they share their food
In such situations, the ant that discovers the food source directs
the others to it. The following method is used for this: The first
forager ant that finds the food source fills its crop and returns
home. As it returns, it drags its tummy on the ground at short intervals
and leaves a chemical signal. Yet its invitation does not end there.
It tours around the ant hill for a short while. It does this between
three to sixteen times. This motion ensures contact with its nestmates.
When the forager wishes to return to the food source, all its mates
that it has met wish to follow it. Yet only the friend which is
in the closest antenna contact may accompany it outside. When the
scout reaches the food, it returns immediately to the hill and assumes
the part of the host. The scout and its other worker friend are
joined to each other via continuous sensory signals and the pheromone
hormone on the surfaces of their bodies.
Ants may reach their target by following the trail that goes to
the food, even when there is no inviting ant. Because of the trail
that successful foragers leave from the food to the nest, when the
forager comes to the nest and does the "rock dance", its nestmates
reach the food source without any help from the inviter.
Another interesting side to ants is their production of many chemical
compounds to be used in the process of invitation, each one with
a different task. It is not known why so many different chemicals
are used to be gathered around the food source but, as far as one
can tell, the diversity of such substances make sure that trails
are different from each other. Apart from these, ants transmit different
signals when sending messages, and the intensity of each signal
is different from the others. They increase the intensity of the
signal when the colony gets hungry, or when new nest areas are needed.
This solidarity among ant societies at such a high level may be
regarded as behaviour that is worth considering and that can be
taken as an example for men. Compared to human beings who unhesitatingly
violate the rights of other individuals on account of their own
interests – which are all they think about - the tremendously self-sacrificing
ants are much more ethical.
It is in no way possible to explain the totally unselfish behaviour
of ants, in terms of the theory of evolution. This is because evolution
assumes that the only rule existing in nature is the fight for survival
and the accompanying conflict. Yet, the behavioural characteristics
that ants and many other types of animals display disprove this
and show the reality of sacrifice. The theory of evolution, in fact,
is nothing other than an attempt by those who wish to legalize their
own selfishness to ascribe this selfishness to the whole of nature.
The Role of Touch In ChemIcal CommunIcatIons
The communications by ants by touching each other
with their antennae in maintaining intra-colony organization proves
that there is in use an "antennal language" in its fullest sense.
The antenna signals created by touching in ants are used for various
purposes like commencement of dinner, invitations and social meetings
where nestmates get to know each other. For instance, in one type
of worker ant species living in Africa, workers first touch by the
antennae when they meet each other. Here, "antenna shaking" means
just a salute and an invitation to the nest.
behaviour is even more striking in certain ant species (Hypoponera).
When a pair of workers meet face to face, the inviting ant tilts
its head sideways 90 degrees and strikes the upper and lower surfaces
of the nestmate's head with its antennae. Often the solicited ant
responds with similar antennation.14
When the ants touch the bodies of their nestmates, the goal is not
to give them information but to receive information by detecting
the chemicals they secrete. One ant beats the nestmate's body very
lightly and rapidly with its antennae. When it gets close to its
nestmate, its goal here is to bring the chemical signals as close
as possible to the other. As a result, it will be able to detect
and follow the odor trail its friend has just laid and reach the
The most striking example
that may be set forth for tactile communication is the exchange
of liquid food from the crop of one ant to the alimentary tract
of another. In an interesting test made on this subject, various
parts of the bodies of worker ants of the Myrmica and Formica
species were stimulated by human hair and were thus successfully
induced to regugitate. The most susceptible ant was the one that
had just finished a meal and was looking for a nestmate with whom
to share its crop content. Researchers noted that certain insects
and parasites were aware of such tactics and they were having themselves
fed by practising this method. What the insect had to do to attract
the ant's attention was just to touch the ant's body slightly with
its antenna and its front leg. Then the touched ant would share
its meal, even if the creature in contact with it is of a different
Ants establishing tactile communication
with each other.
The ability of an ant to understand what the other one
wants by a short antenna contact shows that the ants may, in a sense,
"speak" among themselves. How this "antennal language" used among
ants is learned by all ants is another subject to think about. Are
they undergoing training on this subject? To talk about the existence
of such training, we must also talk about the existence of a superior
Almighty Who provides it. Since it cannot be the ants who can provide
such a training, this Almighty is Allah Who, by way of inspiration,
teaches all ants a language with which to communicate.
The sharing behaviour practised among ants is a specimen of self-sacrifice
that cannot be explained by the theory of evolution. Some evolutionists
who see the adage "Big fish swallow small fish" as the key to life
on earth are forced to withdraw such words when confronted with
such self-sacrifice as is displayed by ants. In an ant colony, instead
of the "big ant" developing by eating the "small ant", it rather
attempts to feed the "small ant" and make it grow. All ants are
ready to accept the food - that is, the "provision" - given to them
and definitely make sure to share the excess with other members
of the colony.
As a result, what all these examples show us is that the ants are
a society of living beings who have submitted to the will of the
Creator and who act under His inspiration. Therefore, it would not
be right to regard them as organisms which are totally unconscious,
because they do have a consciousness which reflects the will of
their Creator. Indeed, Allah draws attention in the Qur'an to this
interesting fact and notifies us that all living things are, in
fact, a community among themselves, that is, they live under a Divine
order and in accordance with inspiration.
There is not an animal that lives on the earth,
nor a being that flies on its wings, but forms communities like
you. We have not omitted anything from the Book, and they will be
gathered to their Lord. (Surat al-An'am: 38)
communication is another method used frequently by ants. Two forms
of sound production have been identified, body rapping against the
substratum and stridulation, that is, rubbing of specialized body
parts together to produce a "chirp".16
The sound signal produced by body rapping
occurs most commonly in colonies that occupy wooden nests. For instance,
carpenter ants communicate by "drumming". They start "drumming"
in the face of any danger approaching their nests. This danger may
be a sound that causes disturbance or a touch that they feel or
a suddenly developing air current. The drummer ant strikes the substrate
with its mandibles and gaster while rocking its body back and forth.
This way, signals easily may be carried through the thin wooden
shells of the nest for several decimeters or more.17
The European carpenter ants send vibrations to their nestmates who
are 20 cm or even farther away by tapping with their chins and bellies
on the woodwork of rooms and corridors. It must be taken into account
here that 20 cm for an ant is a distance that would correspond to
60-70 metres for a human being.
Ants are almost deaf to vibrations transmitted through air. However,
they are very sensitive to sound vibrations transmitted through
objects. This is a very efficient warning signal for them. When
they hear it they quicken their pace, they move towards the place
where the vibration comes from and they attack all moving living
beings that they see around.
No disobedience to this call by any of the members of the colony
is an indication of successful organization of the ant society.
One must admit that even a small human society responding to an
alarm call collectively, at the same time, without any exception,
and without anarchy developing, is a very difficult thing in practice.
Yet ants are able to do what they are ordered without losing any
time and so they are able to lead their lives without interrupting
the discipline within the colony even for a moment.
The production of chirps is more complex as a system than drumming.
The sound produced is created by rubbing certain parts of the body
together. Ants produce this sound by rubbing together the organs
at the rear of their bodies. If you get your ear close to the worker
harvester ants, you may hear them produce a high pitched voice all
Three major functions of stridulation have been discovered in various
species. These may be listed as follows:
1. Acoustical communication in leaf cutter
ants serves as an underground alarm system. It is usually employed
when a part of the colony is buried by a cave-in of the nest. Workers
start moving to perform rescue excavations in response to received
2. High pitched voices are used in some species during
mating by queens. When young queens gather on the ground or vegetation
for mating, and have obtained enough sperm, they produce high pitched
sounds to escape from the swarms of males chasing them.
3. Yet in other species, sound is used to enhance the
effectiveness of pheromones produced during the gathering of nestmates
to find food or new nest sites.18
Sometimes in certain species, the food searchers make it possible
for other ants to surround the prey with signals they produce when
they find a prey. Gathering together of the workers and getting
to the prey is realized within 1-2 minutes on account of this high
pitched voice. These features are a great advantage for the ant
For An Eye That Sees…
With their various communication methods, ants may
be compared to men who can speak several foreign languages. They are
able to communicate with 3-4 different languages among themselves
and they are able to pursue their lives in the least problematic manner.
They are able to subsist their colonies with populations of hundreds
of thousands or sometimes millions, and survive all their lives without
causing any confusion.
Yet this communication system we have been describing so far is
just one of the miraculous features of the animal world. When we
analyse both people and also all other living beings (From single-celled
to multi-celled) we can discover characteristics that are different
from each other, with each being a separate and individual miracle
with its place in an ecological order.
For an eye that can notice all these miracles that are created around
it, and a heart that can feel, it will be sufficient to look at
the extraordinary communication system of the ant of millimetric
dimensions to appreciate the infinite power, knowledge and wisdom
of Allah Who is the sole Owner and Sovereign of all living things.
In the Qur'an, Allah refers to these people who do not have this
capability and who may not appreciate His might:
Have they not travelled about the earth and
do they not have hearts to understand with or ears to hear with?
It is not their eyes which are blind but the hearts in their breasts
which are blind. (Surat al-Hajj:46)
7 National Geographic, vol.165,
no.6, p. 777.
8 Bert Hölldobler-Edward O.Wilson, The Ants, Harvard University
Press, 1990, p. 227.
9 Ibid, p. 244.
10 Ibid, p. 2.
11 Ibid, p. 244.
12 Ibid, p. 197.
13 Ibid, p. 204.
14 Ibid, p. 293.
15 Ibid, p. 258.
16 Ibid, p. 255.
17 Ibid, p. 256.
18 Ibid, p. 257.