Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/368

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genuity, has been made by Prof. Heer. He points out that, according to the reckoning of the most discreet geologists, at least a thousand centuries must have elapsed since Britain was severed from the Continent of Europe. For this long stretch of time, therefore, British animals must have been cut off from their representatives in France, Belgium, and Switzerland. If, then, the habits of a certain slaveholding ant (Formica sanguinea) in England are found identical, as he maintains, with the habits of the same species in Switzerland, there is a strong presumption that its economy has undergone no change for the last hundred thousand years. To this argument, we must reply that the isolation between British and Continental species of insects is by no means so complete as is here assumed. Winged ants travel very considerable distances, and, if our memory does not deceive us, have been met with out at sea. That a part of a swarm should be blown over from the French coast to England, or vice versa, is by no means improbable. And it is well known that if a party of working-ants fall in with an impregnated female of their own species, they immediately lead her to their nest and install her in a royal apartment. That there may have been within the last ten thousand—or even one thousand—years direct intercommunication of this kind between the slave-making ants of England and those of Switzerland, seems to us fully more probable than the contrary supposition.

Again, we may ask whether the conditions under which ants would be respectively placed in Switzerland and in England are not so closely analogous that their social development must proceed on parallel lines? In both they would encounter nearly the same climate, the same food, and the same enemies. Surely, therefore, a close correspondence in habits is no decisive proof of their immobility. But, after all, is there such an absolute accord between the habits of the Swiss and of the British ants as the validity of Prof. Heer's argument would require? Mr. Darwin thinks that in the nests of the British Formica sanguinea there is a relatively smaller proportion of slaves, which therefore play a less important part in the economy of the ant-hill. Messrs. Kirby and Spence record a fact which, isolated as it is, seems to us to overthrow altogether the hypothesis of absolute stationariness. Ants have been found, namely, to establish their nest in the interval between the double casing of a glass beehive. Now, as such beehives are artificial objects, and of very recent origin, they cannot have come in the way of the ants for any great length of time. They offered, however, a certain advantage in the uniform temperature and the shelter which they supplied. This fact must have been recognized by some prying ant, and the discovery, being communicated to its comrades, was turned to practical account. Is not this case the exact parallel of a step in the development of human civilization? And if, as we see, ants can in one case observe a phenomenon, reason on such observation, and work out their conclusions