Magnificence Everywhere (5/15)
Towers of Blind Termites
Would it be possible for blind workers to construct a building as tall as the Empire State Building? Such a feat is out of the question for humankind. However, blind termites, throughout their lives, build nests that are as high as the Empire State Building on a scale proportional to their sizes.
One of the most important characteristics of termites is that they make nests so strong that even humans can demolish them only with difficulty. They build different kinds of nests in accordance with their needs. While some of them build nests that protect them from burning heat, others build nests in order to seek shelter from rain. These nests can be built either beneath or on top of the soil or even inside trees.
When we look inside a termite's nest, we can see its spongy appearance. The nest consists of numerous cells that are about 2.5 cm (1 inch) in width or narrower. These cells are connected to each other by narrow passages through which only termites can pass. The raw material the termites use while making these marvelous buildings consists only of soil, their saliva and excrement. Using such simple materials, some of them make nests so strong that they can only be demolished by using dynamite, and which possess such detailed systems as labyrinths, air circulation passages and canals.
The main miraculous aspect of termites that can build towers like these marvelous nests is that, as mentioned above, they are utterly blind. This is an important point. Termites can see neither the tunnels they make, nor the material and soil they use, nor the cells they construct.
When the works of termites and humans are compared, the marvel at what termites do can be seen even more clearly. So in order to make a better evaluation of the "skyscrapers" which termites build, New York City's Empire State Building in America will make a suitable comparison. The building is 443 meters (1,453 feet) tall. Termites are insects of 1-2 cm (0.4-0.8 inches) height. In spite of their tiny bodies, they build giant nests towering 7 meters (23 feet) high. If termites were as tall as men, their spectacular nests would then be four times higher than the Empire State Building. Termites have been doing an exceptional job that even man cannot achieve, for millions of years-ever since they were created.
The One Who has created termites with all their characteristics is Allah. With the marvelous constructions Allah makes termites build, He, the Lord of all the worlds, introduces us to His boundless might and knowledge. As He reveals in the Qur'an:
Allah is the Creator of everything and He is Guardian over everything. (Surat az-Zumar: 62)
The Diving Technique of Bell Spiders
The water spiders living in the warm regions of Asia and Europe spend most of their lives underwater because they make their nests under the water.
For the construction of its nest, the spider first establishes a platform with webs among water plants or leaves. It attaches this platform to nearby plant stems with silk threads. These threads serve as a signal showing him his nest, as a tie stabilizing the platform and as a "radar" system informing him of any approaching prey.
After building the platform, the spider carries air bubbles under it using its legs and body. Thus the web blows upward and, as more air is added, takes on a bell-like shape. This bell is the nest in which the spider takes shelter as long as it is under the water. (picture at bottom left)
By day, the spider waits in the nest. When a small animal passes nearby, especially an insect or larva, he rushes out to catch it and take it to its nest to eat it. An insect falling onto the water causes vibrations. Feeling these vibrations, the spider goes out, takes the insect and carries it under the water. The spider uses the surface of the water as if it were a web. The situation of an insect falling onto the water is no different from that of any other prey caught in a web.
As winter approaches, the spider needs to take precautions to protect itself from freezing. For this reason, the water spider goes deeper into the pond. This time, it builds a bell for winter and fills it with air. Some spiders settle in the shell of a sea snail that they find in the depths. It remains motionless in the bell and consumes almost no energy during the passage of winter. It does these things so as not to lose energy and to minimize the need for oxygen. By means of these precautionary measures, the oxygen in the air bubble it carried to the nest suffices throughout the 4-5 months that the spider stays there in the winter.7
It is evident that the spider's hunting technique and the bubble it fashions have been designed in the most ideal way for it to live under the water. It is doubtless impossible for a creature that lives on the land to find a way to live under the water by chance. If this creature did not possess the necessary attributes for living under the water, it would die as soon as it entered the water. Therefore, Allah created a land creature, which can live under the water by virtue of having the proper skills to do so, along with all its characteristics, all at once.
By creating such matchless examples as the water spiders, Allah introduces us to His endless knowledge and wisdom.
Chitin: A Perfect Coating Substance
Insects are among the most widespread and resilient creatures on Earth. The reason for this is that they have been created so as to be very resistant to many unfavorable conditions. One thing that makes them so strong is the chitin substance which covers their bodies.
Chitin is a very light, thin substance. For this reason, insects have no difficulty in carrying it. Although this substance covers an insect's body on the outside, it is so strong that it could also serve the function of a skeleton and, at the same time, is outstandingly flexible. It can move as the muscles with ends connected to the insect's body from inside contract and relax. This not only improves the rapid movement of the insects but also buffers the impact of external blows. The chitin layer is waterproof because of a special exterior coating. It also prevents body liquids from leaking out.8 It is not affected by the most difficult conditions, high temperature or even radiation. Another property of this layer is that it has a color, examples of which can be seen in the pictures, that is the most suitable for the insect's environment. In this way, the insect can live and avoid being noticed by its enemies. Sometimes, the colors of this layer are so lively that they even deter predators in the surrounding area.
This chitin, which constitutes the outer shell of most insects, is a perfect material in terms of its strength, elasticity and insulation properties. A substance possessing such remarkable characteristics cannot but make one wonder, if airplanes and spaceships were made from a substance possessing the characteristics of chitin, what would they be like? In fact, the structure of this substance is the stuff of aeronautical engineers' dreams. Yet, mankind has never been able to match such an advanced design, in spite of our technological developments.
Chitin, an equivalent of which is being sought after using twentyfirst century technology, has existed ever since insects came into being. This material, as mentioned above, is the most ideal coating substance an insect can ever possess. It is obviously impossible for this substance possessing the ability to protect the creature against any kind of danger to have come into existence by chance. No insect could have produced such a protective material by using its own will. Allah created this substance, which has a unique design, along with the extraordinary attributes of the insects that it covers. In the Qur'an, Allah draws our attention to His creations in this way:
Among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and earth and all the creatures He has spread about in them. And He has the power to gather them together whenever He wills. (Surat ash-Shura: 29)
If one creature helps another, and prepares an environment for its convenience which meets its needs, this association certainly cannot be claimed to have occurred by chance. One-to-one conformity between creatures that have no consciousness, and the acts they perform to benefit each other, provide evidence for the deliberate creation of these beings. Creatures living together were created with characteristics that benefit each other through the agency of a sole Creator, that is, Allah. We can give certain plants and ants as typical examples of this sort of mutually beneficial creature pair.
There are deep holes in some plants which are called "domatia" in biological terminology (small picture). The only function of these holes is to serve as a shelter for ant colonies. In these plants, there are openings or thin windows of tissue which enable ants to get in and out of the plant easily. In these chambers, there are food bodies that the plant produces with no known function other than the feeding of ants. They do not appear to have a real use for the plant.9 In short, domatia are very special structures that have been created in order for ants to live. The heat and moisture balance provides an ideal environment for ants. In these places marked by diligence that are prepared for ants, the ants make themselves just as comfortable as people staying at luxury hotels.
We can give as another example Philidris, which is a kind of ant species, and its host plant Dischidia major. These make a collective "chemical production" throughout their lives. The plant in question has no roots penetrating the soil, therefore it gets support from other plants by wrapping around them. The plant has a very interesting method for increasing its acquisition of carbon and nitrogen. Ants have an area in these plants, called the "ant leaf," where they breed their offspring and store organic remains (dead ants, pieces of other insects, etc.). The plant makes use of these residues as a nitrogen source. Moreover, the inner surface of the leaf spaces absorbs the carbon dioxide given out by the ant, and in the process decreases dehydration through pores.10 Preventing dehydration is very important for these ant plants which grow in the tropical climates, because, they have no roots and cannot reach water in the soil. So, ants supply two important needs of the plants in return for the shelter provided to them.
It is not possible to claim that the structures seen in these two examples might have come about by chance. The plants could not have produced nutrition proper to ants and taken forms in conformity with them by chance. The cooperation between ants and plants is just one more piece of evidence for the marvelous balance Allah , the only Creator, created on Earth.
7- Bates Hayvanlar Ansiklopedisi (Bates Encyclopedia of Animals), C.B.P.C. Publishing Ltd., p. 244.
8- Ali Demirsoy, Yasamin Temel Kurallari (Basic Fundamentals of Life), Meteksan A.Ş., Ankara, 1992, pp. 18-22.
9- Bert Hölldobler-Edward O.Wilson, The Ants, Harvard University Press, 1990, p. 534-535.
10- Geo Magazine, October 1995, p. 186.