Predatory habits of Florida’s skull-gathering ant — ScienceDaily


“Incorporate ‘skull-gathering ant’ to the checklist of bizarre creatures in Florida,” suggests Adrian Smith a scientist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and North Carolina State University. His new exploration describes the behavioral and chemical techniques of a Florida ant, Formica archboldi, that decorates its nest with the dismembered entire body parts of other ant species.

“In 1958, shortly right after this ant was described as a species, researchers documented some thing weird about it,” suggests Smith, the writer of this examine. Its nests were being property to a collection of decapitated heads of lure-jaw ants. Trap-jaw ants are known as intense insect predators, not straightforward prey for other ants. Because then, scientists have speculated that F. archboldi possibly inherits aged entice-jaw ant nesting web-sites or is in some way a specialised predator. Nonetheless, researchers experienced however to examine the biology of this ant in depth.

“This was a analyze that grew out of looking at a peculiar observation in a 60-yr-outdated study paper,” states Smith. “Odds were being that these ant heads were not in Formica nests by probability and that there was some appealing biology driving this normal record be aware.” In looking into this entomological oddity, Smith was shocked to locate that F. archboldi chemically mimic their entice-jaw ant prey and use what is commonly a chemical protection, a spray of formic acid, as a lethal weapon from lure-jaw ants.

Employing higher-speed movie recordings Smith identified that F. archboldi attacks require a specific spray of formic acid that swiftly sales opportunities to an immobilized trap-jaw ant. Time-lapse movie observation of the inside nest chambers of laboratory colonies located that freshly-killed lure-jaw ants are dragged into the nest like food goods and dismembered. Main to nests crammed with trap-jaw ant human body pieces, as is located in organic colonies.

“The scientifically surprising finding of this research was that these ants chemically match or mimic the chemical profiles of two species of trap-jaw ant,” suggests Smith. The ants match in their cuticular hydrocarbons, a complex layer of waxes that coat the outer surface of an ant. Ants usually use these compounds as nestmate and species-precise indicators. “It can be definitely unconventional for an ant species to screen this much variation in chemical signature. Also, chemical mimicry is ordinarily a tactic utilized by social parasites, but there is no evidence that F. archboldi are a parasitic species.”

“In aiming to figure out one particular unusual part of this ant’s biology, this exploration has turned up a different in the chemical information,” suggests Smith. While this study was unable to come across a immediate website link involving chemical mimicry and predatory behavior, this chemical mimicry likely hints at a long evolutionary historical past among these ant species. “Now Formica archboldi is the most chemically diverse ant species we know of. Just before this perform, it was just a species with a strange head-accumulating habit. Now we have what may possibly be a design species for being familiar with the evolution of chemical diversification and mimicry,” suggests Smith.

A movie about these ants and this investigation can be located right here:

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Predatory actions of Florida’s skull-gathering ant — ScienceDaily