织蚁

by xw

读蚁笔记:Weaving the Nest,Weaver ants
由 xw » 5月 22 2012

头一回到南非,也是头一回非洲。从开普顿开车翻山到大小Karoo,就看到戈壁稀
树上吊满了各式样的鸟巢,如果不是纷繁鸟类,还不知是什么工巧,制作得这么精
细。原来是一类工织鸟,工织鸟不象人类,男耕女织,倒有点象印家人都是男人工
织。人类是织衣织帽织毯织暖,鸟类倒是织窝织家:雄鸟织好了窝才招呼雌鸟过目,
满意的话就可以成家产卵了,繁殖下一代了。这种鸟巢在亚马逊雨林水滨也能见,
名称过目不忘,Weaver Bird,纺织鸟。

这里我要提另一类,编织蚁,也是生在树上。其实蚁类与树共生的种类繁多,方式
别门各异,有生在树根底下,有死树桩,枯木杆。有树干上筑泥窝,树枝上悬纸巢,
据Ants书中载记B & E在秘鲁亚马逊某一棵树上发现四十三种蚂蚁,还不止是社会。
编织蚁是蚂蚁中的一个奇数,把树叶编结成巢,就藏身树梢叶上,既隐避又严密,
里头包容了一整个蚁类社会,何等用心?

近代史上最先记录这种现象的是英皇家学会主席Joseph Banks,也是源于随库克
船上一行到澳大利亚观察所录:

Living upon trees, where he builds a nest, in size between that of a mans
head and his fist, by bending the leaves together and glueing them with a
whitish papery substance which held them firmly together. In doing this their
management was most curious: they bend down four leaves broader than
a mans hand and place them in such a direction as they choose, in doing
of which a much larger force is necessary than these animals seem capable
of. Many thousands indeed are employed in the joint work; I have seen
them holding down such a leaf, as many as could stand by one another each
drawing down with all his might while others within were employed to fasten
the glue. - J. C. Beaglehole, ed., The "Endeavour" Journal of Joseph Banks,
1768-1776, vol. 2, p. 196, Sydney, Halstead Press, 1962)

只是这里具体的Glue来由没讲清楚。倒是后世德国科学家Franz Doflein1905年发现,
threads of silk provided by the grublike larvae of the colony...

    The soft and tiny grubs are held by the larger ants, who slowly moved up against those pulling. Each grub is held by the middle, with head pointing forward, its snot is gently made to touch the edges of the leaves where they are joined, it is slowly moved backwards and forwards and is undoubtedly issuing a thread during the operation, which adheres to the leaf edges, and eventually grows into a web. When this web is completed it must be composed of several layers to be strong enough for the purpose of securing the leaves....There could be no doubt that the ants were actually using their larvae both as spools and huttles...with their mandibles they held their larvae so tightly that the bodies of the latter appeared to be compressed in the middle. Perhaps this pressure is necessary in order to excite the function of the spinning glands. -- Franz Doflein, Weaver ants.


编织的工作往往是在夜里进行,首先,很可能是一只编织工蚁,跑到叶尖端,利用
大颚将叶反摺。接着,很可能又来了两只工蚁,并排在第一只工蚁旁,一起合力将
叶片的反摺往叶柄的方向拉。接着,来了更多的工蚁投入这项工作。有时,它们期
望的是一片叶和另一片叶的接合,这需要更多蚂蚁的帮忙,两片叶的距离实在太远
了,它们便以自己的身体作为长链的一环,一只又一只,以大颚扣住前一只的腹柄
节,形成一环又一环构成的长链,慢慢,将两片叶拉近。

两片拉近的叶如何接合呢?这时,要引用Journey into the Ant一书的精彩描述了
:吐丝编织是一种灵巧的精确双人舞蹈。工蚁以大颚夹住幼虫接近叶缘,幼虫的头
部向前端伸出,就好像是工蚁身体的延伸。工蚁的触角则向下弯折,尖端与叶缘相
触,并沿着叶表触摸约2/10秒,看起来就像是一个眼睛被遮住的人,以双手轻触桌
缘来了解他的位置与形状。接着,工蚁会将幼虫的头部朝下接触叶表,一秒钟之后
再树幼虫举起。在这短暂的瞬间,工蚁以它的触角触碰幼虫的头部十次左右。这个
细微轻触显然是一个信号,可以让幼虫释出丝线。我们不确定这个动作是否包含这
个指令,不过在这个动作过程里,幼虫的确会释出微量丝线,并自动黏附在树叶表
面。

Sisterhood of Weavers,据说这是世界上最先雇用童工的现象。

丝,是低等动物都具备的要素,蜘蛛有名,昆虫更有名。著名的蚕丝,多重完全变
态的昆虫的蛹阶段都用丝将自身包裹在茧里(Pupa, Cocoon)。蚂蚁是完全变态昆虫,
就是生历卵、幼虫、蛹、成虫四个阶段,在优良社会中前三个阶段都有卫士看护,
侍士喂食,身体几乎不能动旦。要跟蝴蝶的幼虫比,蚁子的Nymph比,简直是弱智。
此怕因为社会性而弱化,跟人类相似,但也因为社会性与集体教育使得成体有更强
的智力。

蚁,尤其是编织蚁的幼虫将吐丝裹茧时被成蚁拿丝筑巢,跟人类拿蚕丝织绸可比类。
然而幼蚁并未因此丧命,许多蚁类并不吐丝筑茧,一样成熟。而此编织蚁少茧或无茧
一样可以Metamorphesis成虫,Weaver ants,编织蚁。成蚁无丝,落了个虚名!

白居易有名的讽喻诗《红线毯》中的千古名句:“宣城太守知不知,一丈毯用两千丝。
地不知寒人要暖,少夺人衣作地衣。”此地指人,犹记得《慈悲三昧水忏》中尽行忏
悔,提到丝茧:养蚕煮茧。伤杀滋甚……茧。煮熟抽丝。

Weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) nest

编织蚁以树叶为家的智慧,不只表现在它们以自身作为工具的技巧上,它们的智慧更
表现在居家如何含养更多氧气的智慧上。在巢里生活的编织蚁,不免产生二氧化碳,
然而,这些被拿来作为建材的叶片并没有枯死,这些叶仍能进行光合作用,进行光合
作用后所产生的氧气正好可供应巢穴内编织蚁的需氧,当然,光合作用亦可吸收掉
它们所产生的二氧化碳。人类的科技要发展到这样的先进地步时,也该建造出这样智
慧的绿建筑。
2013-11-04 15:45:46

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