Author – Smrithi Fredric
Through hundreds of years, insects and birds have naturally adapted to their environment, adopting a wide range of sizes, shapes and behavior that would further their survival. These modifications are internalized as instincts, than acquired skills. These adoptions are the ingenuity of evolution and nature. Here are some out-of-the-world evolutionary leaps that birds and insects have made!
Ants: Builders of Mounds
The brain of ants contains only about 2,50,000 brain cells, in contrast to the 100 billion brain cells that an average adult humans has. The ant brain-power gives them the capacity to build castles out of Earth that feature living rooms, doorways and chambers. These tiny-architects also construct pillars inside the mound which support the arched ceiling of the mound. The chambers are used to access all the parts of the mound. Few of these chambers are reserved for collecting the pupae (a stage in development of their infant ants where the latter transform into full-grown ants).
Some group of ants build their houses using rain water and soil (mounds). The architecture generally consists of one large room with a hole on the top and several smaller openings at the bottom. Ants are found in colonies which are structured intricately into different sections- the smaller openings placed in bottom of the mounds are reserved for the laboring class of ants. These mounds consists of doorways which are opened in the morning and are closed by the laborers using pieces of wood at night. They also guard these openings and ensure they are kept closed during rainy days. Ant mounds can have about 20 storeys, with separate areas for the large ants.
Wasps: The Master Masons
Wasps (pelopaeus) build their houses using mud mixed with their saliva. They choose a warm and sage spot where they mud in their mandibles (jawbone), mixing it with the saliva. They mold and spread it on the spot to form a hollow cell. The inner walls of the cell is smoothed through which a series of other cells are created.
Well-known for their evolutionary tactics, the female wasps follow an ingenious ritual while making nests. The female wasps paralyze spiders through stings. These spiders are then laid in the cells, forming a bed to the arriving eggs. The wasp lays her eggs inside the paralyzed spider and seals mouth of the cell.
Chalicodoma: Bee, The Builders
Chalicodoma build houses similar to those of wasps. The common locations for building houses are old walls and rocks. Unlike wasps, they use a harder and sturdier form of cement prepared from chalky clay mixed with sand and hardened with saliva. The houses are made facing southwards.
The female bees collect the cement in their jawline and lay it on the wall creating a round structure. Then, grains of sand and girth are added to the outer surface which roughens the exterior while the interior is smoothed. When the construction is partly complete the bees collect honey from flowers and mix it with the pollen grains to form a cake. This is used as fodder for the coming offspring. The structure is completed with making of the lid. To protect the whole structure, the bee puts a layer of cement mixed with saliva. This keeps it waterproof and lowers probability of overheating.
Bower birds: The Love-Impelled Architects
Bower birds are found in the forests of New Guinea and Australia. These birds are colorful in nature and have vibrant courtship behaviors to attract mates. The males build a safe structure in their bower and decorate it with appealing objects. These could include glass shards, plastic toys, plastic or real flowers. This behavior of hoarding spirited objects is to influence sexual selection and thus helps to keep up their progeny. The males also dance to attract the females. Within the behavior of a certain type of bowerbird, the male is responsible for nurturing the infant chicks along with the female (they share a monogamous relationship). However, all the other types of bowerbirds are polygnous where the female construct the nest and are sole caretakers of their young ones.
Robin Hood Fish (Archer Fish): Arch-Masters
The Archer fishes can aim and capture prey from a long distance- this distance extending to about 5.8 times of their body length. They have evolved this method of archery where they exert a super jet of water from their mouth towards the prey. The force of the jet is adjusted based on the distance and the size of the prey. In most of the cases, the jets are shot to such accuracy that the prey is captured in the first attempt itself. The Archer fishes swim below water level to get a clear vision of the victim.
Hermit Crab: Nomadic Wanderer
Bringing to the flexibility afforded by evolution another milestone, the hermit crab use second hand shells or vacated shells as homes to protect their body from predators. Over time, the hermit crabs have learned the need for a hard exterior to protect their soft body structure. Hermit crabs change their homes when the size of the shell can no more support their body growth. The possession of a shell depends upon size of the crab. All the hermit crabs stand in a queue according to their sizes and the highest priority is given to the largest. The biggest crab swaps its body into a new shell giving the old one for the next crab in the queue. Thus a chain process is formed until all the crabs have their new homes.
Parrots: The Mimicry of No Voice
Parrots do not have vocal chords but they have cultivated the ability to mimic sounds like words of human beings. The purpose of mimicking sounds (especially by the young ones) is to advance communication and is done by social learning.
Birds like songbird and parrots can mimic human voice exactly as we speak. This ability is acquired by making tones using vibration of throat muscles and membranes. It is not only the domestic birds that mimic humans- the other birds in wild which are in constant interaction with humans have also been known to imitate tones.
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