The deceptive and tricky Ant-mimicking Crab-spider

There is no doubt that certain species of spiders are quite deceptive and tricky. This is the case of Aphantochilus rogersi (top photo), a neotropical carb-spider in the Thomisidae Family, that convincingly mimics its prey, the turtle ant Cephalotes atratus (middle and bottom photos) or also Zacryptocerus pusillus.

These spiders do not just mimic the appearance of the ant, but also oviposit in close proximity to nests of the model ant. As if that were not enough, Aphantochilus rogersi also has an specialized hunting behavior, this spider uses the bitten and paralyzed ant as a shield, presumably protecting it from attacks by living ants.

So, just in case, the next time you see an ant …. You better count how many legs it has. 

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: [Top: ©Pablo Sebastián Padrón | Locality: Pastaza, Ecuador] - [Middle: ©Ricardo Solar | Locality; unknown]  -  [Bottom: ©Ana Jaramillo | Locality: Riomanso Natural Reserve, Colombia]

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Meat Ant (Iridomyrmex purpureus)

Also known as the Meat-eater Ant or Gravel ant, the meat ant is a species of rainbow ant (Iridomyrmex spp.) that occurs throughout Australia. Like most ants meat ants live in large underground nests that number around 64,000 individuals. Despite what their common name might suggest meat ants are omnivorous scavengers and will forage diurnally for whatever they can manage. Their common name comes from the fact that they are commonly used to clean carcasses. Interestingly meat ants do not have dedicated soldier and worker casts, instead they exhibit age caste polyethism which means they take on different roles in the colony at different ages. Young ants typically care for eggs and older ants form foraging parties.


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Image(s): Fir0002 

The feared and fascinating Jack Jumper Ant - the metazoan with the lowest possible number of chromosomes

The Australian Jack Jumper Ant, Myrmecia pilosula (Formicidae), with its 12 mm length, large eyes, and long mandibles with teeth, is an aggressive ant with a very potent sting. 

The sting is not severe (in terms of pain), but this ant is responsible for greater than 90% of Australian ant venom allergy. In Tasmania stings by M. pilosula (and possible the Inchman ant, M. forficate) caused 21–-25% of the 324 cases of anaphylaxis treated with adrenaline in the Royal Hobart Hospital Emergency Department between 1990 and 1998, compared with 13% caused by honeybee stings.

Moreover, what I personally find fascinating is the fact that ants of the Myrmecia pilosula species complex include some individuals with the lowest possible metazoan chromosome number of 2n = 2, although others in this cluster of sibling species have much higher numbers, the known maximum being 2n = 32.

If we also consider that males are haploid (they have a single set of chromosomes in the nucleus of their cells), as in other Hymenoptera, the somatic cells of males contain only a single chromosome.

Other common names: Jumper Ant, Hopper Ant, Jumping Jack, Bull Ant.

References: [1] - [2] - [3]

Photo: ©Arthur Chapman

Locality: Falcons Lookout Track, Werribee Gorge State Park, near Ballan, Victoria, Australia 

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“Pirate Ant” (Cardiocondyla pirata)

…a species of Myrmicine ant that was discovered in the province of Laguna in the Philippines. C. pirata gets its common name from the black steak that occurs across the eyes of females, this pattern occurs in no other ant and is thought to be reminiscent of a pirate’s eye-patch. C. pirata was discovered fairly recently (~2013) and as such very little is known about its biology. It likely behaves fairly similarly to other members of the genus Cardiocondyla


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Image: Seifert B, Frohschammer S

Meranoplus mayri

…a species of Myrmicine ant that is distributed throughout the drier regions of Madagascar from the Southwestern region Andohahela National Park north into the province of Mahajanga. Meranoplus mayri are typically encountered at elevations of 20-1,345 m above sea level. Not much is known about the biology of M. mayri except that it is commonly found in urban gardens, grasslands, and deciduous and spiny forests. They are also thought to possibly occur in the High Plateau region as well. 


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Image: ©


Ant-mimic spider, Myrmecotypus rettenmeyeri, and Gold Carpenter Ant, Camponotus sericeiventris

Spiders of the genus Myrmecotypus  (Corinnidae) are known for being morphological and behavioral mimics of ants (ant-mimicry or mirmecomorphy). This genus currently includes nine species from the New World, which occur from the United States (one species) to Argentina (one species), but most (seven species) occur from Mexico to Panama.

Myrmecotypus rettenmeyeri (top-left), native to Panama, mimics the Golden Carpenter Ant, Camponotus sericeiventris (top-right and bottom) which occurs in the same habitat. 

In this case, the medial dorsal keel on Camponotus sericeiventris is mimicked by a medial dorsal band of hair on Myrmecotypus rettenmeyeri. The active behavior of this spider also accurately mimics the antennal movements in the ants, keeping the first pair of legs raised when stopping, and often moving about. Other similarity is that the black surface of both spider and ant has yellow or golden-white pilosity with high reflectance.

References: [1] - [2] - [3]

Photo credits: [Top: ©Jeremy Gatten | Locality: Altos Del Maria, Panama, 2012] - [Bottom: ©Seig | Locality: Lapa Rios Ecolodge, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, 2014]

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A tower of Weaver ants, Oecophylla smaragdina (Hymenoptera - Formicidae), from Vietnam. 

Weaver ants are best known for their remarkable nest construction. Using precise coordination, the weaver ants create very strong ant chains by linking legs to pull and bend leaves into desired tent like positions. The ants then use their own larvae to secrete a silk that is used to stitch leaves together to create a nest. They may have several nests dominating a few trees at once.

Weaver ants are found in Australia and South East Asia.


Photo credit: ©Adegsm

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Ant trophallaxis 

Have you ever heard the word trophallaxis? Well, sometimes ants may appear to be ‘kissing’. They are actually sharing food with nest mates. When worker ants forage for food, they may store some liquid food in their ‘social stomach’ or crop. At a later stage, the food can be regurgitated and distributed to other hungry nest mates. The process of sharing liquid foods is called trophallaxis.

Trophallaxis is also known to serve as a means of communication. In some species of ants, it may play a role in spreading their colony odour that helps them identify their own nest mates. 

This process also occurs in honeybees, social wasps, termites, and other social insects.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Paul Bertner | Locality: Angkor Wat, Cambodia (2013)

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