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A superorganism is a living community of many individuals of the same type of organism who develop skills that go beyond the capabilities of the individuals.

The term "superorganism" was coined in 1910 by the American biologist William Morton Wheeler , on the basis of his work on ants . The classic example of a “superorganism” is therefore the ant colony : every ant is theoretically able to survive individually, because it has all the organs that independent insects need to survive. In fact, however, they have specialized so that they can only survive in the long term in the community - in the state : Few are responsible for reproduction, most of the others procure food, protect the community from enemies or tend the brood.

The interaction of these specialized modes of action by far exceeds the possibilities that individual ants would have: They are therefore also assigned a so-called collective intelligence .

A simpler form of superorganisms are e.g. B. swarms . These move mainly in a community in order to offer enemies a smaller attack surface. It is considerably more difficult to locate and catch prey in a moving school than in individuals moving alone.

Alfred Kroeber transferred the concept of the superorganism to human culture, and Carsten Bresch suggested the designation MONON for the emerging planetary superorganism, as "the result of the final, all-encompassing integration of the evolution of a planet."

Individual evidence

  1. ^ William Morton Wheeler : The ant-colony as an organism. (A lecture prepared for delivery at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Mass., August 2, 1910). In: Journal of Morphology. Vol. 22, No. 2, 1911, ISSN  0362-2525 , pp. 307-325, doi : 10.1002 / jmor.1050220206 .
  2. Kulturologie In: Michel Panoff, Michel Perrin: Pocket Dictionary of Ethnology (= List Pocket Books of Science 1615). List, Munich 1975, ISBN 3-471-61615-2 , p. 177.
  3. Carsten Bresch : Intermediate stage life - evolution without a goal? Fischer, Frankfurt a. M. 1979, p. 251.