How much an ant can carry?
June 29, 2010, 1:55 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Reading scientific articles is part of scientist every day job. I have to say that if I find that many papers can be classified as interesting for my research, but not necessarily exciting to read (even sometimes boring). The goal of a scientific article is not be exciting but to be useful, to make a point. Having undergraduate students working around, it is easy to tell that they are not extremely enthusiast about reading scientific articles in general. However, once in a while, some exciting papers are published that, I believe, will enthusiast most of their readers and could become one of those examples that professors can then use to explain a concept to their students. Students that could even enjoy them!

On arboreal ants, I can think about a few like this that came out over the past years such as the gliding Cephalotes and the red berry Cephalotes (infected by a nematode) of Steve Yanoviak, the devil gardens of Myrmelachista of Frederickson, or the trapping techniques of Allomerus by Dejean. In a new article, still by Dejean and collaborators published in PlosOne, ants reveal one more time some really cool example of adaptations to capture prey. Like the three previous examples, arboreal ants are involved. In this case, Azteca species use the structure of the leaves of their host plant to capture preys… huge preys! Up to 13000 times their own weight. And the authors to compare this with a 70 kg human being able to capture a 935 tons prey.

Wait a second, 935 tons… what could weight that much? That is about eight Boeings 757 full of passengers, or also the weight of a destroyer during the Second World War… Amazing!

The pictures provided in the article are great and talk for themselves. Also, do not miss the video in the supplement (it has the quality of a documentary).

Now the interest of the article is also to show that the relation between the plant species and the ant species is fundamental for the success of prey capture, as well as the side of the leaf used by ants to capture large sized prey. This provides a good example of the different benefits perceived by ants on different myrmecophytic plants.

Here is the link to the article:

http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0011331

Enjoy!


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