Over the course of years spent sucking insects from their nests, color-coding their abdomens with paint pens, and monitoring the movements of individual ants within colonies, Deborah Gordon has made surprising discoveries about the evolution of complex systems.
Ant biologist Deborah M. Gordon has spent decades digging in the Arizona desert to decipher the chemical, genetic and behavioral codes of ant colonies. Contrary to the popular notion that colonies have evolved into efficient, organized systems, she has instead discovered that the long evolution of the ant colony has resulted in a system driven by accident, adaptation and the chaos and "noise" of unconscious communication.
Her studies of the harvester ant have shed light on the evolution of aggregate systems, whether biological or virtual, and may someday yield clues tracing the evolution of the brain from neuron to cortex.
Gordon, a Stanford professor, wrote the acclaimed book Ants at Work, outlining her discoveries in generous, nontechnical detail.
"What (Gordon) has discovered by charting the life cycles of 300 ant colonies spread across a 25-acre swath of chapparal are findings which upset many of our assumptions about how the world works."APF Reporter