Tuesday, November 20, 2012

20 More Amazing Ant Facts

1. Trap-jaw ants can shut their jaws faster than any other in the animal kingdom. They have been recorded closing their jaws at 230 km/hr (143 mph).

2. Bamboo nesting ants that live in Malaysia deal with frequent flooding by drinking the water that is inside the nest, and excreting it outside the nest.

3. The mangrove ant which nests in the cavities of wood in mangrove forests deals with flooding by switching to anaerobic respiration. Anaerobic respiration is breathing that uses an alternative to oxygen like sulphur or nitrate. When their nests fill up with water, instead of drowning, they stop breathing air and start breathing chemicals found in the water.

4. The army ants of South America and the driver ants of Africa do not build permanent nests. Instead they roam freely. In an emergency, when they need the safety of a nest the workers form a temporary nest from their own bodies, by holding each other together.

5. Leaf cutter ants live on a fungus that grows only within their colonies. They collect leaves which are taken to the colony, cut into tiny pieces and placed in fungal gardens.

6. Some species of ants can form chains to bridge gaps over water, underground, or through spaces in vegetation.

7. Australian mangrove swamp ants can swim and live in underwater nests. They breathe oxygen stored in pockets in their nests.

8. Blue or copper caterpillars are herded by some ants species. The ants lead the caterpillars to feeding areas in the daytime and then bring them inside the nest at night. The ants then massage (or milk) the caterpillars so that they secrete a honeydew which the ants like to eat.

9. Many tropical tree species have seeds that are dispersed by ants. Seed dispersal is widespread and new estimates suggest that nearly 9% of all plant species may rely on this process.

10. Some birds indulge in a peculiar behaviour called "anting" that is as yet not fully understood. These birds pick up and drop ants onto their wings and feathers or sit on ant nests. It is believed that they do this because the ants kill and remove parasites.

11. In some parts of the world (mainly Africa and South America), army ants are used instead of stitches. The sides of a wound are pressed together and an ant's head is placed on it. The ant seizes the edges of the wound with its jaws. The ant's body is then cut off and the head remains firmly there until the wound heals.

12. In South Africa ants are used to help harvest rooibos which are small seeds used to make a herbal tea. The plant disperses its seeds widely, making manual collection difficult. Black ants collect and store these and other seeds in their nest, where humans can gather them easily. Up to half a pound (450g) of seeds can be collected from one ant-heap.

13. Although ants are found almost every where, a few ant species are actually endangered. In 1985, the Sri Lankan relict ant became the first ant species to be classified as critically endangered. Today, they are only found in one area of Sri Lanka.

14. It has been estimated by E.O.Wilson that the total number of individual ants alive in the world at any one time is between one and ten quadrillion. According to this estimate, the total mass of all the ants in the world is approximately equal to the total mass of the entire human race. In other words if we could put all the ants on the earth in one pile and all the humans on the earth in another pile, the two piles would be about the same size.

15. The eggs of two species of ants are the basis for a dish in Mexico known as escamoles. This is a delicacy and costs around 40 American dollars a pound (or $90 a kilo).

16. In Santanger, Colombia, hormigas culonas ants commonly called "large bottom ants"are toasted alive and eaten while still warm.

17. In areas of India, Burma and Thailand, a paste of the green weaver ant is served as a condiment with curry.

18. In Thailand weaver ants, their eggs and their larvae are used in a salad called red ant egg salad.

19. In North Queensland, Australia, Aborigines mix mashed green ants in water to create a drink similar to lemon squash.

20. Most ants have stingers. Often when people think that they have been bitten by an ant they have instead been stung.