Saturday, February 23, 2008

Specialized Colonies of Ant

Army Ants: Many ant species have specialized ways of obtaining food. Among the more dramatic is army ant behavior, which includes group prediction and nomadism. The former involves both group raiding and group retrieval of prey. Because the workers forage an masse for food, they are able to overcome and capture other social insects and large arthropods. The colonies frequently migrate to new nesting sites where food is abundant.

Fungus-Growing Ants: Ants of the New World tribe Attini are highly specialized Herbivores that cultivate subterranean fungal gardens on fecal or plant-derived substrates. This fungus serves as the genus leaves, which they masticate and on which they grow their fungus break down leaf proteins. Because the ants cannot digest the cellulose in these macerated leaves, and the fungus can, the ants gain access to the cellulose by eating the fungus.

Harvester Ants: Many ants feed on seeds. Some called harvesters, live in arid environments and depends almost totally on seeds. Most harvesters construct elaborate subterranean nests that reach depths of 2 m (6 ft) or more. The nests contain some chambers devoted entirely to the storage of seeds and are sometimes topped by a mound of gravel and sand. Workers clear all vegetation from a circular space around the nest some 1 to 10 m (3 to 33 ft) wide. Harvesters generally husk the collected seeds before storing them.

Gatherers and Herders: Some ants gather plant liquids directly from wounds and nectarines. Still others collect honeydew, a substance excrete by insect such as Aphids and Treehoppers. These insects, of the order Homoptera, feed on plant juice. Although the nutrient-rich juices first pass through the homopteran's digestive tract, the honeydew excreted through the anus still contains many nutrients. Some ants simply lick fallen honeydew, whereas other actively solicit it and directly imbibe the droplets as they from at the anal opening. The homopterans are protected from predators by the ants, which may even construct shelters over their "cows."

Parasitic and Slave-Making Ants: Some ants have entered into parasitic relations with other ants. Two or more species may from compound nests, in which the broods are maintained separately and the parasitic species obtains food from the host species. Although compound nests may be non-parasitic, another category, called mixed colonies, almost always result from social parasitism. In these the broods of the involved species are mixed and cared for as one. Some parasitic ants are permanent resident of the host colony and are so specialized that they have lost the worker caste. Slave making also results in mixed colonies. Slave-making species raid other colonies and steal worker pupae, which they enslave to carry out the work of their colonies.


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