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Acrobat ants, arboreal ninjas

27 Dec
Arboreal acrobat ants suspending their caterpillar prey in a tree.

Acrobat ants (Crematogaster) suspending their caterpillar prey in a tree.

I spotted this impressive sight early this summer.  A dozen or so acrobat ants gripped and suspended a huge caterpillar upside down from a tree branch above me, as other workers started to pick it apart.  As arboreal ants, acrobat ants have some of the most impressive gripping ability I have encountered.  I judge this by the time I have spent aspirating ants from trees for various projects for the lab–in particular the day I helped the post-doc collect several groups of 50 of these guys.  These guys can really hold on.  By the end of an hour I was light-headed from the aspiration attempts, and reduced to using the tube to try to pry the ants loose.

In fact, as Myrmecos author Alex Wild brought up a while back, a number of plants have adapted to take advantage of arboreal predators by providing wooly footholds to help them hold on.

 

 

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