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Lord of the Ants

Program Overview


NOVA profiles Edward O. Wilson, a pioneering biologist whose study of ants led to the advent of sociobiology, a discipline that seeks to explain the social behavior of all species through genetics and natural selection.

The program:

  • reveals how Wilson's love of nature began during his childhood as he explored the woods in southern Alabama.

  • explains how he came to study ants.

  • notes that Wilson, during the three years he spent collecting specimens in the tropics, was the same age Charles Darwin was when he made a similar journey.

  • travels with Wilson to the Dominican Republic, where he searches for ants of the genus Pheidole, which includes about 20 percent of all known ants in the western hemisphere.

  • reveals detailed characteristics of the Pheidole soldier ant, the type of ant that is often used to differentiate one species from another because it offers the most traits for comparison.

  • reports that Wilson has spent more than two decades compiling his exhaustive reference work, Pheidole in the New World: A Dominant Hyperdiverse Ant Genus.

  • explains how Wilson discovered that ants communicate in a chemical language by releasing their pheromones.

  • follows Wilson's odyssey from studying the behavior of ants to trying to make sense of the genetic basis of all animal behavior—an endeavor that led to the development of the field of sociobiology.

  • reports on the controversy brought about by Wilson's suggestion that genes may play a role in the development of human social behavior.

  • details a 1965 experiment in mass extinction that Wilson and a colleague conducted on a small island in the Florida Keys.

  • chronicles Wilson's efforts to protect the biodiversity of the world's forests.

Taping Rights: Can be used up to one year after program is recorded off the air.

Teacher's Guide
Lord of the Ants
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