The Apple Pips

Inside All Apple Products

Tag: ants (Page 1 of 2)

Scientists hunt down super rare T. Rex ant and are shocked at what they find

science news

In nature, creatures that look ferocious and intimidating oftentimes have personalities to match. So, when researchers finally managed to find an active colony of an ant species with a frightening appearance and a name that literally means "tyrant ants," they expected to observe some seriously aggressive insect action. What they got instead has left them completely puzzled, and with more questions than answers.

Continue reading...

Trending right now:

  1. You won’t have to wait until November to buy Apple’s next-gen iPhone 8
  2. Security researchers have a fix for victims of the ‘WannaCry’ ransomware
  3. Russian spaceflight director thinks Elon Musk is out of his mind

These tiny beetles have evolved to ride ants like horses

When army ants stream into the jungles of Costa Rica, they leave death and destruction in their wake. These nomadic group predators eat everything from millipedes to other ants, and they even raid wasps' nests for eggs and larvae. Any insect that doesn't escape the swarming column of hundreds of thousands of ants is likely to die a terrible death. And yet many insects have evolved to live among army ants, feeding on their scraps and even taking shelter in their nests.

Researchers Christoph von Beeren and Alexey K. Tishechkin just identified a tiny beetle they've named Nymphister kronaueri that keeps up with the army ants' endless march in an unusual way. N. kronaueri clamps onto an army ant's back with its mandibles, as if it were a soldier going into battle on the back of the most magnificent steed in the world. Von Beeren and Tishechkin describe the strange life of N. kronaueri in a paper for BMC Zoology, and they explain how these animals evolved to live among creatures who would normally gorge themselves upon their beetle guts.

Insects and other creatures who live among ants are called myrmecophiles, which literally means ant lovers. Myrmecophiles stand to gain a lot from this strange relationship. Certainly they can feed off the colony's leftovers in the wake of a raid, but there's more to the relationship than that. Ants create a pleasant environment, much like a human city that attracts wild animals. The researchers write:

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Bizarre ant colony discovered in an abandoned Polish nuclear weapons bunker

For the past several years, a group of researchers have been observing a seemingly impossible wood ant colony living in an abandoned nuclear weapons bunker in Templewo, Poland, near the German border. Completely isolated from the outside world, these members of the species Formica polyctena have created an ant society unlike anything we've seen before.

The Soviets built the bunker during the Cold War to store nuclear weapons, sinking it below ground and planting trees on top as camouflage. Eventually a massive colony of wood ants took up residence in the soil over the bunker. There was just one problem: they built their nest directly over a vertical ventilation pipe that leads into the bunker. When the metal covering on the pipe finally rusted away, it left a dangerous, open hole. Every year when the nest expands, thousands of worker ants fall down the pipe and cannot climb back out. The survivors have nevertheless carried on for years underground, building a nest from soil and maintaining it in typical wood ant fashion. Except, of course, that this situation is far from normal.

Polish Academy of Sciences zoologist Wojciech Czechowski and his colleagues discovered the nest after a group of other zoologists found that bats were living in the bunker. Though it was technically not legal to go inside, the bat researchers figured out a way to squeeze into the small, confined space and observe the animals inside. Czechowski's team followed suit when they heard that the place was swarming with ants. What they found, over two seasons of observation, was a group of almost a million worker ants whose lives are so strange that they hesitate to call them a "colony" in the observations they just published in The Journal of Hymenoptera. Because conditions in the bunker are so harsh, constantly cold and mostly barren, the ants seem to live in a state of near-starvation. They produce no queens, no males, and no offspring. The massive group tending the nest is entirely composed of non-reproductive female workers, supplemented every year by a new rain of unfortunate ants falling down the ventilation shaft.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Meet the worst ants in the world

(credit: Tom Campbell)

I battled the ants for about a year before I started noticing interesting patterns in their behavior.

My military tactics against the invaders were those of a typical San Francisco eco-nerd. I used non-toxic spray made with orange peels to repel them (it actually works pretty well) and placed low-toxin poison sugar bait traps close to cracks they used to enter the house. But these tiny, brown insects seemed unstoppable. They would swarm onto their targets seemingly out of nowhere. I’d put out my cats’ food and come back in 45 minutes to find a thick, wriggling line of ants moving between a crack in the wall and their kibble target. If I blocked their trail with poison, they'd pour out of a different crack next to the kitchen counter. Or at the base of the stairs. Or in my bathroom.

By necessity, I spent a lot of time watching these tireless insects overcoming every obstacle. And during all that reconnaissance, I started to see things that made me wonder who these ants really were.

Read 45 remaining paragraphs | Comments

When pests bite, a nightshade plant bleeds ant food

Enlarge (credit: Tobias Lortzing)

Nature is, it’s often said, red in tooth and claw. But sometimes a claw scratches someone’s back in return for a symbiotic scratch of one’s own. Ants provide many examples of such mutually beneficial arrangements. As weird as it sounds, drinking the “blood” of a wounded bittersweet nightshade plant appears to be one of them.

Ants and plants are often good friends (leafcutters aside) because ants prey on insects that munch on the plants. Some plants keep ants on retainer by secreting nectar from special structures (fittingly called “nectaries”) that can be found in various parts of the plant. The acacia tree even goes as far as growing hollow thorns that ants can nest inside when they aren’t dining on the gourmet ant food the tree provides. (Full disclosure: acacias also drug the ants so they can’t live off other food sources. It’s a complicated relationship...) The benefits the tree obtains from its ant security detail apparently outweigh the energetic costs of these lavish gifts.

Something a little more subtle is going on with the bittersweet nightshade plant. A group of researchers led by Tobias Lortzing of the Free University of Berlin noticed that this nightshade bleeds sugary droplets when damaged, rather than quickly closing up its wounds. Seeing ants hit up those droplets for a snack, they wondered whether the plant adapted to call in ant support when herbivores come a-munching.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén