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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A CLOSE-P LOOK AT THE "THE LITTLE THINGS THAT RUN THE WORLD"
Wonder is in no short supply in The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants. Author Erich Hoyt tells us from the outset that this is going to be an ant's-eye view of things: "I have sought the perspective of viewing from less than an inch off the ground, as well as tunneling twenty feet below the earth and looking out from the inside of a hollow tree." A...
Published on 2 Sep 1996

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tries somthing worthwhile, but doesn't fully succeed
The Author attempts two things in this book: to portray the life of ants from the ants point of view, and to portray ant researchers as humans. The attempt to give us an ants-eye-view of the world often feels forced, and the narrative he spins seem so unlikely that they are often hard to swallow. He also anthropomorphizes freely, which although perhaps necessary for the...
Published on 20 Aug 2009 by Antman


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A CLOSE-P LOOK AT THE "THE LITTLE THINGS THAT RUN THE WORLD", 2 Sep 1996
By A Customer
This review is from: The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants (Hardcover)
Wonder is in no short supply in The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants. Author Erich Hoyt tells us from the outset that this is going to be an ant's-eye view of things: "I have sought the perspective of viewing from less than an inch off the ground, as well as tunneling twenty feet below the earth and looking out from the inside of a hollow tree." A tribe of leafcutter ants becomes, not so much a brown river flecked with bits of green, but a MayDay parade of workers with leafy banners.

The leafcutter ants are among the most fascinating of the incredible number of ant species. The leafcutter's tiny brain, amazingly, is capable of storing information on local landmarks to orient it's foraging (the chess-playing Deep Blue was nothing --let's see the gnomes at IBM replicate an ant's skills on a chip the size of a dot). The leafcutters, like all ant species, use pheromones -- chemical signals -- to communicate. This is sometimes exploited by other creatures: "Certain beetles, like highwaymen, wait to try to rob the ants of their food by giving them the ants own 'feed me' signal." The ants lay down trails with pheromones that allow others of their nest to follow. Hoyt chances upon once such trail -- "the long line of leafcutters now extends for hundreds of yards through this forest, along this ant highway swept clear of all debris. Two lanes, a regular speed land and a passing lane, lead toward the colony nest, while the third lane is for ants venturing out from the nest to cut more leaves."

Ants aren't the only interesting characters in The Earth Dwellers. Hoyt spent several years in the field, tagging along with Harvard ant man Edward O. Wilson in the latter's effort to catalogue new species. The author gives an affectionate portrait of the gentle Wilson, whose love for living things found it's text in "the gospel according to Charles Darwin". Wilson "refers to the tropical rainforest as a cathedral, a place where the biologist makes pilgrimages, goes to worship and gape in wonder at the full flowering of evolution, the place where life is more diverse than anywhere else on earth." A biodiversity expert, Wilson is the most quoted scientist on our decimation of earth's life: according to his estimates up to 70 species are being killed off a day, for a sickening total of twenty-five thousand species a year.

After the rancorous debate in the seventies on sociobiology, the science of genes and behaviour that he founded, Wilson is back with his "little things that run the world". Ants, to the Harvard prof, are DNA on the move, little Darwinian machines in exoskeletons. Hoyt quotes the professor : "The foreign policy of ants can be summed up as follows: restless aggression, territorial conquest, and genocidal annihilation of neighbouring colonies, wherever possible. If ants had nuclear weapons, they would probably end the world in a week."
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tries somthing worthwhile, but doesn't fully succeed, 20 Aug 2009
The Author attempts two things in this book: to portray the life of ants from the ants point of view, and to portray ant researchers as humans. The attempt to give us an ants-eye-view of the world often feels forced, and the narrative he spins seem so unlikely that they are often hard to swallow. He also anthropomorphizes freely, which although perhaps necessary for the narrative feels both forced and unrealistic.

The attempt to portray ant researchers as humans succeeds, insomuch as he paints a picture of finikity, grumbling old men moaning about how they do their work right ant others do not. I do not know if this is an accurate representation of the actual people he is portraying, but his portrayal certainly does nothing to endear the scientists to the reader.

The book succeeds in demonstrating some fascinating and compelling behaviours and adaptations in the ant world, but this will be spoiled for some by the nagging feeling that although the author has read a lot about these ants, one gets the feeling he has never properly worked or played with them.

All in all, I cannot recommend this book heartily, as although I am very fond of ants indeed, I found this book more of a chore than a joy.
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The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants
The Earth Dwellers: Adventures in the Land of Ants by Erich Hoyt (Hardcover - Mar 1996)
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