[embedded content] For all its beauty, nature also has a sickly streak. Case-to-case, there is a species of swamp in…
For all its beauty, nature also has a sickly streak. Case-to-case, there is a species of swamp in Florida that collects the skull of other ants as they have killed and decorate their biscuits with them, Phys.org reports.
“Add” skull-gathering “to the list of strange creatures in Florida,” said Adrian Smith, a researcher at North Carolina Natural Sciences and North Carolina State University, who has conducted new research into the bizarre habits of this insect world’s headhunter.
Formica archboldi was a species identified for the first time in 1
958, and immediately researchers found that its bones were often folded with dismembered body parts of other ants, usually skulls of felling jaw mites. Since trampacids have the reputation of being particularly terrible predators in themselves, researchers have not automatically assumed F. archboldi were stashing kill trophies. The work assumption for a long time was that these ants only had a curious habit of inheriting old folding jaws.
Satisfied with that explanation, or perhaps shrunk to consider alternative theories, new research on the bizarre species stopped. It was not until Smith and his team came across the original 60-year research papers that described the ant as F. Archboldi and its macabre behavior finally got a second look.
“Odds were that these bogs were not in the Formica Cup by chance and that there was an interesting biology behind this natural history note,” Smith said.
And it did not take long before sightings revealed the cruel truth behind the anticompetitive cohabitant of the ant with dead enemies. F. archboldi is actually a specialized predator with adaptations that make it particularly skilled for preying on trap-jaw mites. Smith and his team first noted that F. archboldi can chemically mimic the signatures of felling jaws, which means that they can come close to their prey without notice. Once they have closed, F. archboldi then the fires of formic acid at their opponents, which almost immediately paralyze the unfortunate victims.
After the death is completed, the trachea mites are carried back to F. archboldi bon and dismembered. The exoskeleton is then displayed on the display as trophies.
Researchers are still not clear about the purpose of the trophy. Perhaps these ants lack only agility. For whatever reason, they have more than earned their description as “crane-gathering ants”.
“Formica archboldi is now the most chemically versatile ants we know. Before this work, it was only a species with a strange mainstream habit. Now we have what can be a model to understand the development of chemicals diversification and aftermath” said Smith.
A video showing the behavior of this species can be seen at the top of the article.
What is about this bizarre marsh’s bizarre headhunting behavior?
New research offers some fascinating insights into this strange insect’s trophy collections.