Natures wonders: ants who are slave owners (Introduction)

by dhw, Wednesday, March 06, 2019, 10:05 (193 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: complete evidence for automatic behavior controlled by their genes.

dhw: We know that behaviour can alter genes and genes can alter behaviour. Does the “downregulation” force them to change jobs or does it occur BECAUSE the ants have decided to change jobs? They would hardly do that if there wasn’t a need for them to do it. I would also like to know what changes occur in the genes that are sensitive to adult nestmates as well as when these changes occur in relation to the new behaviour. I am suspicious of “spend more time” (bolded). So do they all spend some time caring for the brood? Or do some ants go on caring for the brood, but others change their jobs according to need?

DAVID: I don't think the researchers can answer your questions. It appears that they controlled the gene expression to see how the ants reacted.

dhw: I’m pretty sure they can’t answer my questions. In which case, this is anything but “complete evidence for automatic behaviour controlled by their genes”. Such a conclusion is what some people would call hyperbole.

DAVID: If they altered genes and behavior changed, that is pretty direct evidence that altering genes altered behavior.

Why have you ignored the rest of this post? Of course if you alter genes you will alter behaviour. But we know that altered behaviour can also alter genes. If you and the experts can’t answer my questions, then neither you nor they can tell us whether in life the decision to change behaviour has altered the genes, or vice versa, and you most certainly can't claim that this is "complete evidence for automatic behavior controlled by their genes". I propose that since the changed behaviour of the ants is clearly the result of need, the more likely explanation is that the decision to change behaviour is the cause and not the result of the changes.

David: I know you want ants to operate independent of their genes, but there is lots of evidence they are individually automatic forming rafts and bridges.

I do not believe their genes direct them to build rafts and bridges and whole cities and farming communities and societies in which different members play different roles. I propose that just like other organisms including humans, ants make intelligent decisions, and their bodies make the necessary adjustments to implement their decisions.


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