Leaf cutter ants and our place in the universe
Ever heard of a leaf-cutter ant?
They are the ones that cut chunks off leaves, usually bigger than their own bodies, and carry them back to their colonies.
What's interesting about these ants that the leaves you see them carrying are not their food.
The leaves are supplies.
Fertilizer for the fungal farms that these ants build and maintain.
That’s right - these ants maintain a farm of fungus. They gather leaves and grow fungus on them in order to feed themselves.
First they place fresh leaves in the poorer performing sections of a garden of fungus located in their colony.
Then they will eat some of the weaker fungus growths, from which they get their nutrition, before their excrement is then expelled on the fresh leaves to break them down for easier consumption by the fungus.
All of this is going on right now, somewhere out there in the world...
What does it all mean?
I sometimes like to think about leaf cutter ants, and all of the other animals out there doing crazy things right now, as an exercise in humility.
I feel like it's very easy to get caught up in a human-centric view of the world.
As if the actions of humans are all that matters. As if the day to day goings on of the world are insignificant unless they involve or are witnessed by a human.
But more happens every day than ever witnessed by people.
Right now there might be an antelope giving birth in Africa as a Lion watches on licking its lips.
A kitten might be laying alone in a bush having been abandoned.
A spider may have just felt a tug from that one strand in its web that tells it caught something.
A seal may have just narrowly escaped the jaws of a monstrous Orca.
Maybe there’s a polar bear feeling anxious about the fact that the ice is melting below her feet and she knows she won’t be able to feed both of her cubs.
We see this stuff on documentaries and are often amazed by it, but I don't think we appreciate that it's going on right now. Right this second.
Somewhere out there something crazy / awe inspiring / devastating / heart breaking / joyful / fascinating is happening, but there was no one there to watch it.
It still happened whether you witnessed it or not and it's still amazing.
Humans are not the center of everything and we have a habit of forgetting that.