We live in an age where humans pretty much have electricity and technology in the bag. We know how to make use of technology, from computers to Square D circuit breakers, turning it into useful tools for our everyday. It’s what sets us apart from all the other critters and creatures all over the world. Except some animals actually have some high-tech elements built into their physiology, and they’ve been using that tech much longer than we have. Let’s take a look at some high-tech aspects of the animal kingdom.
1. Wireless signals and soil-dwelling insects.
The great thing about the advent of smartphones is that Wi-Fi is readily available pretty much wherever you are—a hotel, a café, an airplane. As it turns out, we’re not the only ones who make significant use of wireless signals.
Scientists found that certain soil-dwelling insects alter the chemical composition of plants to communicate with other bugs that might be passing by. The chemical alterations cause the plant to release signals that indicate it is occupied, so above-ground bugs know instantly if they’re encroaching on someone else’s meal. It’s a means of preserving food, but it’s also a bit of a favor. Some insects develop slower when they share a plant with soil-dwellers.
2. Harvester ants as models for Internet Protocols.
A quick lesson on the Internet: Internet traffic is managed by several different types of protocols. One of the core protocols is TCP, which stands for Transmission Control Protocol. TCP’s primary goal is to keep Internet traffic flowing smoothly and prevent congestion. It does so by monitoring the speed at which your computer receives special signals called acknowledgments. The faster these acknowledgments come, the more bandwidth available on your network, at which point the TCP can increase the speed that it sends data. If the acknowledgments come slow, the TCP slows things down because it knows there’s not enough bandwidth available.
Still with me? Okay, so what does this have to do with harvester ants? Harvester ants work the exact same way—sans computers. If foraging ants return to the colony quickly, it means that there’s plenty of food around, so the colony sends more ants out. On the other hand, if ants trickle in slowly, the colony knows that food is scarce so they send fewer ants out.
3. Sharks and electroreception
Sharks are probably the greatest, most fearsome predators in the animal kingdom. If they had legs, humans wouldn’t even stand a chance. They have replaceable teeth. They have skin that protects them from damage and improves their fluid dynamics.
As if you didn’t need more reason to fear and admire them, sharks have an amazing extra sense known as electroreception, and it’s as cool as it sounds. Granted, sharks aren’t the only one with this sense as rays, skates, and other fish are also electroreceptive, but sharks have the most refined form of electroreception.
Electroreception essentially describes the ability to detect electrical currents and electromagnetic fields. What does that have to do with being underwater? See, every single muscular movement, from a flapping fin to a twitching finger, creates the tiniest electrical current. This allows for more accurate hunting. Some researchers believe that Earth’s magnetic fields actually create electrical currents that the sharks can follow during seasonal migration.
Think technology is only for humans? Think again!
- Animated Ant: Pixabay