ingo arndt (previously featured) has travelled the world photographing the architecture of animals, who he points outs were building nests, dams, and huts while we humans were still living in caves. he also points out that these animal constructions — which are typically used over many generations, and are all biodegradable — can teach us something about sustainable living. these photos, part of a collection of over two hundred, show:

1. a spinifex termite tower made of small earth and saliva balls, found in australia’s northern territory. at over twenty feet tall, it is capable of housing two to three million termites, and features a ventilation system that ensures a consistent internal temperature. 

some termites, charged with defending a tower, are unable to feed themselves given the size of their jaws, and rely on other termites to feed them. but this kindness may be repaid, as these soldier termites will give their lives in defence of the colony.

2. a communal silk nest, known as a tent, made by a group of buff tip caterpillars, who often gather in lime, birch, hazel and willow trees.

3. the nest of the european red wood ant, here in hessen, germany. though these ants are just one centimeter long, their homes are over six feet high and are built so tightly that water is unable to seep in. 

4,5. a weaver ant nest in australia’s northern territory, which the ants build by weaving together leaves bound with the silk produced by their larvae. should any other animal venture within smelling distance of the nest, weaver ant soldiers will charge out, spraying bullets of formic acid. like the termites, they will sacrifice their lives in defence of the group. 

6. a maypole in western new guinea built by a male vogelkop gardener bowerbird with the sole intention of attracting a mate.

7. (left) the shell of a marine snail of the genus xenophora, which has been covered in rocks, other shells and debris from the area. a young snail will adds these to its growing shell to both provide camouflage and anchor its shell from sinking into the seafloor. (right) a paper pulp nest made from chewed, weathered wood by the common wasp (vespula vulgaris)

8. the nest of a baya weaver in namibia, built from blades of fresh grass which then harden in the sun. note that the nest can only be accessed from bellow.