The world's best animal architecture - in pictures | Art and design, theguardian
" European red wood ant nests in Hessen, Germany. In comparison to their body size of just one centimetre, red wood ants build skyscrapers. Their anthills can reach more than 2m high and 5m wide. Inside the tower, there is a mega system of paths so that no water can penetrate. They often transport building materials that weigh 40 times their body weight. Photograph: Ingo Arndt
There are huge fields littered with compass termite towers, which average 3m tall, throughout northern Australia. The flat-sided constructions have a north-south orientation, and an ingenious ventilation system, so they keep a constant temperature inside. Morning and evening light hits the flat sides and warms them up, then at midday, the sun only hits the narrow, upper edges so the temperature doesn't rise.
A cathedral termite mound in Northern Territory, Australia. These towers often reach more than 6m high, and are some of the most spectacular animal constructions in the world. A single structure can accommodate 2-3million termites. Small balls (a mix of earth and saliva) are brought by the workers to build up the mound. Soldier ants with gigantic heads and well-fortified pincers watch over the workers.
Australian weaver ants building their nest by pulling on leaves and working in chains, in Northern Territory, Australia. The adult builders pull leaves together with their pincers then interweave them with silk threads produced by their larvae. They can build an entire nest in 24 hours.
Photograph: Ingo Arndt
Grey bowerbird bower in Northern Territory, Australia. The grey bowerbird goes to extreme lengths to build a love nest from interwoven sticks and then covers the floor with decorative objects. The more artful the arbor, the greater the chance a male has of attracting a mate. Photograph: Ingo Arndt
The bower of the vogelkop gardener bowerbird is a complex architectural masterpiece. The tower, or maypole, is set around a thin trunk. The males are very meticulous builders; if a branch slips once, it is immediately moved back into the correct position. Anything with striking colours is used to decorate the bower: blossoms, fruits, leaves, mushrooms, mosses, and even rubbish left behind by humans in the Arfak mountains of Indonesia.
A wasp nest made of masticated wood. Wasps often use a type of paper created from wooden particles and their secretions. Thousands of years ago, Chinese paper inventors carefully observed wasps and drew inspiration. Typically, large wasps’ nests consist of several horizontal combs, aligned in parallel lines. Several layers of the wasp paper close off the entire ensemble from the outside, and there is only one small entrance. The layers offer physical protection, and the air between the combs protects against strong temperature fluctuations.
Beaver lodges are only accessible through an underwater entrance, which offers them protection against enemies, cold and heat. Beavers regulate the water level and the number of water surfaces using dams. In doing so, they protect the entrance of the lodge, create new food sources, and make the transportation of food and building materials easier on themselves.