Lewis Thomas is scholar in residence at Cornell University. He is the author of the best selling The Lives of a Cell, The Medusa and the Snail, The Youngest Science, and other books.
Dec 01 1992
Song of the Canary
Other creatures, most conspicuously from our point of view the social insects, live together in dense communities in such interdependence that it is hard to imagine the existence of anything like an individual. They are arranged in swarms by various genetic manipulations, they emerge in foreordained castles, some serving as soldiers for defending the anthill or beehive, some as workers, bringing in twigs of exactly the right size needed for whatever the stage of construction of the nest, some as the food gatherers tugging along the dead moth toward the hill, some solely as reproductive units for the replication of the community, even some specialized for ventilating and cleaning the nest and disposing of the dead.