Author – Smrithi Fredric
Over millions of years, insects and birds have naturally adapted to their environment, evolving into a wide range of sizes, shapes and behavior that would ensure their survival. These modifications are internalized as instincts rather 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 to showcase their animal ingenuity in building nests, which indicates how well adapted they are to their environment!
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 human has. The ant brain-power gives them the capacity to build castles out of soil, featuring 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 (development stage before transforming 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 that are structured intricately into different sections- the smaller openings placed in the 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. These insects mold and spread it on the spot to form a hollow cell. The inner walls are smoothened to create a series of other cells. Well-known for their evolutionary tactics, female wasps follow a bizarre ritual that indicates their animal ingenuity in building nests. The female paralyzes spiders through stings, and then lay them in the cells to be ready food for the arriving larvae. The wasp lays her eggs inside the paralyzed spider and seals the cell mouth.
Chalicodoma: Mortar Building Bees
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 to create 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 the 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 the 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 the sexual selection and thus helps to keep up their progeny. The males also dance to attract females. The bowerbird 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 polygynous where the female constructs the nest and are sole caretakers of their young ones.
Robin Hood Fish (Archer Fish): Arch-Masters
The Archer fish can aim and capture prey from a long distance. This distance can extend to about 5.8 times of its body length. The fish has evolved this method of archery of exerting a super jet of water from their mouth towards the prey. Archerfish swim just below the water level to get a clear vision of the victim. The force of the jet is adjusted based on the distance and the size of the prey. In most cases, the jets are shot with such accuracy that the prey is captured in the first attempt itself.
Hermit Crab: Nomadic Wanderer
Bringing to the flexibility afforded by evolution another milestone, the hermit crab use 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 the 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 voices exactly as we speak. This ability is acquired by making tones using the 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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