Deadly Army Ants Decimate Entire Ecosystems

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Cooperative ant masses are capable of moving in army-like formations and devastating large quantities of prey and the surrounding environment.

The ‘army ant’ is commonly referred to as the legionary ant or marabunta, and incorporates over 200 different ant species derived from the family Formicidae. Army ants are distinctive due to their behavioral raiding tendency in which individuals cooperate with each other to aggressively dominate prey and their respective ecosystems. Instead of forming permanent nests, army ants are constantly on the move. This legionary mentality is loosely attributed to convergent evolution.

Image: Bernard Dupont, Flickr

Colonies cover vast amounts of territory on a daily basis and decimate all insects and animals they encounter in their path, displaying unbelievably coordinated tactics not seen elsewhere in the animal kingdom. The army ant is equipped with sharp jaws capable of performing scissoring motions used to effectively slice through the bodies of their prey. At the same time they are tearing through flesh they are emitting a powerful acid that dissolves tissue much faster than digestion — serving as powerful military weapons.

Foragers trigger this raiding behavior by venturing out in small groups to locate prey populations. Messages are carried back to the momentarily sedentary colony by pheromones, initiating mass movement. Army ant colonies predominantly consist of workers, soldiers, males, and the queen.

These destructive forces are capable of consuming up to 500,000 prey animals on a daily basis, primarily composed of arthropods, larvae, earthworms, and small vertebrates. The devastated earthen trails left in their wake are often over sixty feet wide and over three hundred feet long.


Featured image: Bernard Dupont/Flickr