Friday, January 16, 2009

E.O. Wilson: The Ant Whisperer

PULITZER WILSON E.O. Wilson is a naturalist who has greatly expanded our knowledge of ants. As a kid he was a geek who liked to look at nature’s creations. His first interest in nature sprouted when he was on a beach and found a Sea Nettle Jellyfish. He observed it for hours. Over time, as he matured, his interest turned to ants. He overcame several disabilities to make his award-winning discoveries about ants.

As a young man, E.O. Wilson, or as I like to call him, the Ant Whisperer, fought many obstacles. One of his disabilities was that he became partially deaf. Another disability is that he had dyslexia; this might make it hard to focus. The biggest obstacle to becoming a naturalist, someone who observes nature, is that he lost sight in one eye in a fishing accident. This destroyed his ability to see in 3D. After the fishing incident, he found out that he could see small things such as ants really well. It seems that he was destined to study ants.

In his studies, E. O. Wilson found out how ants communicate. They leave a trail of a chemical pheromone that the other ants follow. He also learned that the ants figure out if the other ants are alive or dead by detecting the Carbon Dioxide that the live ants respire. The dead ants emit Oleic Acid from their decomposing bodies instead of Carbon Dioxide. He also figured out that ants go crazy when invaders attack because they bring a mix of chemicals called propaganda pheromones. He shared all this information and more in the Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Ants.

E. O. Wilson overcame many obstacles, defeated many challenges to teach us about ants. He became world-famous for his discoveries that are important to understanding ants and the diversity of life. All in all, E. O. Wilson is an inspiring person and naturalist.

Source: E.O. Wilson - Ant ManOdyssey: Adventures In Science.  A Cobblestone Publication, April 2007.

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