Mark Moffett

Why Ants Don’t Play

Ants can display fascinating parallels to human societies, especially for species that live in colonies of hundreds of thousands or more . But ant workers show little evidence of “play” as we usually think of it for humans and some other animals. This reflects the manner in which ants relate to each other as individuals, the role of experience in the success of colony members, and how breakthroughs emerge when large numbers of ants work together. Among the ants, play simply might not be a beneficial activity.

Mark W. Moffett, an expert on tropical treetop exploration and the social behavior of ants and other animals, is a research associate at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. He is one of the few individuals to receive a doctorate from conservationist Edward O. Wilson. As Wilson has written, “Mark has the soul of a 19th-century explorer, a wandering naturalist in the tradition of Darwin.” By documenting new species and behavior from remote places and bringing his findings to the attention to the public, Mark’s efforts as an explorer span both science and journalism. He has received the Lowell Thomas Medal from the Explorers Club, the Distinguished Explorer Award from the Roy Chapman Andrews Society, a Poynter Fellowship in Journalism from Yale, a Bowdoin Prize for writing from Harvard, and many international awards for his articles in National Geographic Magazine.