Sunday, November 17, 2013

Creature Feature #33: Army Ant

There are over 200 species of ants known as “Army Ants” spread over seven genera and inhabitating both the Old and New Worlds. They are all characterised by their nomadic, often destructive, wandering behaviour.

Army Ants do not inhabit a regular territory, instead they roam in huge columns - sometimes as much as 20m wide and 100m long. They begin at dawn and end at dusk. As most Army Ants are blind, they follow trails of pheromones which they use to navigate the hoard and limit collisions with other ants during the march. In one day, the army can devour up to 500,000 different prey animals, mostly comprising of invertebrates, eggs, seeds and sometimes small vertebrates as well. In some cases, dead vertebrates are left behind, as the mandibles of the ant, whilst most formidable, are not capable of dealing with this prey. Some species march underground, others scale into the trees, where they will overwhelm any birds sitting on their nest.

During their march, they are often accompanied by foraging birds, such as the antpitta, thrushes, wrens and antbirds.

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