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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ant Species / Types of Ants - Part II

Slave Maker Ants

Some ants will raid the colonies of other ants, taking the pupae with them, which once hatched act as workers in the raider's colonies despite not being genetically related to the queen. A few species, such as the Amazon ants (e.g. Polyergus rufescens), have become utterly dependent on such slaves, to the point of being otherwise unable to feed themselves.

Leaf Cutter Ants

Member of the Arthropoda Myrmicinae family. Leafcutter ants are social insects found in warmer regions of Central and South America. These unique ants have evolved an advanced agricultural system based on ant-fungus mutualism. They feed on a specialized fungus that grows only in the underground chambers of the ants' nest.

Different species of leafcutter ants use different species of fungus, but all of the fungi the ants use are members of the Lepiotaceae family. The ants actively cultivate their fungus, feeding it with freshly-cut plant material and maintaining it free from pests and molds. This symbiotic relationship is further augmented by another symbiotic partner, a bacterium that grows on the ants and secretes chemicals, or secondary metabolites, which protect the fungus from molds that would feed on the fungus - essentially the ants use portable antimicrobials. When the ants happen to bring back toxic leaves, the fungus secretes a chemical that warns the ant not to collect any more of that type of leaf

Jack Jumper Ants

Belonging to the Myrmecia pilosula family, The jack jumper ant, hopper ant or jumper ant (Myrmecia pilosula) is a species of bulldog ant that is native to Australia. The ants are recorded throughout the country, but are most often found in Tasmania, rural Victoria, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and the southeast area of South Australia.

The jack jumper is, in fact, the smallest of the bulldog ants, ranging from only about 10 to 12 millimeters long, but they are the most aggressive and vicious. These ants are black, with yellow or orange legs, antennae, and mandibles. Their characteristic jumping motion gave them their name. Their nests may be inconspicuously hidden under a rock, or may be formed from a 20 to 60 centimeter in diameter mound of finely granular gravel.

Bulldog Ant

Belonging to the Myrmecia and Nothomyrmecia family. The Myrmeciinae is a subfamily of the Formicidae that was once found worldwide but is now restricted to Australia and New Caledonia. The Myrmeciinae comprise two extant genera, Myrmecia and Nothomyrmecia, as well as the fossil genus Prionomyrmex.

Myrmecia, often called bull ants or jack-jumpers, are well-known in Australia for their aggressive behavior and powerful stings. The venom of these ants has approximately a 3% chance to induce anaphylactic shock in their sting victims. Until the introduction of a vaccine the stings could, if gone untreated for only a matter of hours, be lethal. These large, alert ants have characteristic large eyes and long, slender mandibles and they have superior vision, able to track and even follow intruders from a distance of 1 meter

Bullet Ant

Paraponera is a genus of ant consisting of a single species, the so-called bullet ant (P. clavata), named on account of its powerful and potent sting, which is said to be as painful as being shot with a bullet. It is called by the locals, "Hormiga Veinticuatro," or "24-hour ant", from 24 hours of pain that follow a stinging.[1] The bullet ant inhabits humid lowland rainforests from Nicaragua south to Paraguay. Workers are 18-25 mm long and look like stout, reddish-black, wingless wasps.

The pain caused by this insect's sting is purported to be greater than that of any other Hymenopteran, and is ranked as the most painful according to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. It is described as causing "waves of burning, throbbing, all-consuming pain that continues unabated for up to 24 hours". In some indigenous communities, to enter man-hood a boy has to endure being stung by the ant 5 times without screaming.[1] A paralyzing neurotoxic peptide isolated from the venom is poneratoxin.

Paraponera is predaceous and, like all primitive poneromorphs, does not display polymorphism in the worker caste. Colonies consist of several hundred individuals and are usually situated at the bases of trees, workers foraging arboreally in the area directly above the nest for insect prey and nectaries, often as far as the upper canopy.

Gliding Ant

Gliding ants are arboreal ants of several different genera that are able to control the direction of their descent when falling from a tree in order to land on the trunk before reaching the unfamiliar and potentially hazardous understory.

All species in the genus Cephalotes that have been tested to date show this ability, as do many species of Pseudomyrmecinae, and some other groups.

Some ants voluntarily jump or drop off of trees in response to disturbance, secure in the (genetic) knowledge that they have an 85% chance of landing successfully on the same tree, as opposed to 5% if they were simply parachuting like normal ants.

During a fall, gliding ants use visual cues to locate tree trunks. Specifically, they orient to light-colored columnar objects that sharply contrast the darker background of foliage in the forest. Tropical trees often have light-colored bark and frequently are covered with white lichens, thus they provide the most conspicuous targets.

Lemon Ant

Myrmelachista schumanni, also known as the lemon ant, is a species of ant that is notable for the creation of Devil's gardens. Using its own herbicide they are able to shape its surroundings.

Leafcutter ants are the principal herbivores in Central and South American rainforests. In the rainforests of the western Amazon, however, a little-studied ant species rivals the leafcutters in its ability to destroy vegetation. Myrmelachista schumanni, lives in large clearings in the rainforest, called devil's gardens, where all but one species of plant are excluded. The non-excluded plant species is Duroia hirsuta, a myrmecophyte in which M. schumanni nests.

The few studies of the mutualism between M. schumanni-D. hirsuta have incorrectly concluded that these clearings are formed by allelopathy on the part of D. hirsuta. It was established that worker ants were injecting leaves with a poison called formic acid and the plants started to die within 24 hours. Formic acid is a toxin common in many ant species; its name actually comes from the Latin for word for ant, formica.

By killing other plants, the ants provide themselves with many nest sites - a long-lasting benefit as the researchers estimate that the largest garden observed, containing 328 trees over 1,300 square metres, is around 800 years old.

Atta laevigata

Atta laevigata is one of about a dozen species of leafcutter ants in the genus Atta, found from Colombia south to Paraguay. This species is one of the largest leafcutter species, and can be recognized by the smooth and shining head of the largest workers in a colony. Atta laevigata is locally known in northern South America as hormiga culona (lit. big-butt ant). It has been eaten for hundred of years, as a tradition inherited of pre-Colombian cultures as the Guanes. The ants are harvested for about nine weeks every year, at the time of the rainy season, which is when they make the nuptial flight; A. laevigata are used as traditional gifts in weddings. There are local beliefs about the ants to be aphrodisiac.

The harvesting is made for the local peasants who are often wounded by the ants, since they have strong mandibles. Only the queens are collected, because the other ants aren’t edible. The legs and wings are removed; after that, the ants are soaked in salty water and roasted in ceramic pans. The main centers of production of ants are the municipalities of San Gil and Barichara. From there, the trade of ants is extended to Bucaramanga and √°Bogot, where the packages containing ants are often seen during the season. The exportation of this product is mainly made to Canada, England and Japan.

Analyses conducted in the Santander Industrial University about the nutritional value of the ants (Alfonso Villalobos et al, 1999) show high level of protein, very low levels of saturated fat, and an overall high nutritional value.

Atta laevigata is a temporary source of income for the poor peasant of the area, this and the competition for resources with more aggressive species of leafcutter ants ("arrieras") cause a progressive decrease of the population of ants, as estimated in recent studies (Santamaria et al. 2005) in a remaining of only a sixth of the existent population twelve years ago, and for this reason there is concern about its conservation status.

Argentine Ant

The Argentine ant (Linepithema humile, formerly Iridomyrmex humilis) is a tiny dark ant native to northern Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and southern Brazil. The species has been inadvertently introduced by humans to many other areas of the world, such as South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, Easter Island, Australia, Hawaii, Europe, and the United States.

The worker ants are only about 3 mm (1/8th inch) long and can easily squeeze through cracks and holes no more than 1 mm (0.040 inch) in size. Queens are two to four times the length of workers. These tiny ants will set up quarters in the ground, in cracks in concrete walls, in spaces between boards and timbers, even among belongings in human dwellings.

German entomologist Dr. Gustav L. Mayr identified the first specimens of Hypoclinea humilis in the vicinity of Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1866. This species was shortly transferred to the genus Iridomyrmex, and finally to Linepithema in the early 1990s.

Thief Ant

Solenopsis molesta, also known as thief ants, get their names because they often raid other ants’ nests for food and to steal eggs. They are also called grease ants because they are attracted to grease.

S. molesta range anywhere from 1/32 (0.5 mm) of an inch to 1/8 (3 mm) of an inch long. They can be yellowish or brownish tones of color. These ants have a two-segmented petiole connecting their abdomen to the thorax. They have 10 segments in their antennae, which end in large segmented clubs. Thief ants have small stingers on their oblong abdomen, and generally have small eyes. Worker ants have large jaws for carrying food back to the colony.

The habitat of Solenopsis molesta is infinite, because they can survive just about anywhere. They can live in people’s homes, in the cracks or under the floorboards. They can build nests anywhere, such as under rocks, in any exposed soil, and rotting logs. If they cannot find any of these things, then they move into another colony. Their nests are generally large for the ants’ size, and have tunnels that lead to another ant colony for a reliable and steady food source.

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