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Myrmecomorphy
May 12, 2011 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Ants are one of the most abundant groups on earth, but, curiously, not a lot of things eat them. Yes, there are anteaters (who also eat a lot of termites), and some lizards specialize on ants, but the little critters are full of noxious chemicals and pheromones that put them way down on the list of predators’ preferred foodstuffs. Because of this, many other insects and arthropods have evolved to mimic ants, taking advantage of the aversion of predators to anything antlike. These mimics are called myrmecomorphs, and they’re the subject of a really nice eponymous feature in this week’s Current Biology.
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posted by AceRock (22 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
some lizards specialize on ants

Especially one of my favorites, Horned Lizards!

This is interesting; thanks for posting it.
posted by TedW at 9:33 AM on May 12, 2011


This is why, whenever I feel threatened, I disguise myself as an ant.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:36 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


so that's why Patty looks so much like Selma...
posted by sexyrobot at 9:41 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a myrmecomorphy pool on Flickr.
posted by dhruva at 9:51 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the subject of human myrmecomorphs...
posted by The White Hat at 9:51 AM on May 12, 2011


Interesting post, thanks AceRock. Insect mimicry is so fascinating but I had no idea insects mimicked being another insect. That's so cool. That rascally con artist spider pretending to be an ant.
posted by nickyskye at 9:51 AM on May 12, 2011


Insect mimicry is so fascinating but I had no idea insects mimicked being another insect.

But facing the other direction. That's why I only eat ants that walk backwards.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:05 AM on May 12, 2011


Ever since I read Cstross' MISSILE GAP I now regard every ant hill with suspicion.
posted by The Whelk at 10:20 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thankfully, when I smoosh an ant, I don't feel the need to eat it.
posted by reductiondesign at 10:46 AM on May 12, 2011


Am I allowed to say that Hans Rickheit has a six-oage webcomic about catpillars imitating ants on my website? And that there's more details in Metafilter Projects?
posted by Paul Slade at 10:48 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ants are one of the most abundant groups on earth

All of them are in your soda right now.

This post brought to you by a traumatic childhood experience.
posted by dismas at 10:49 AM on May 12, 2011


Quail eat the ants on my patio, perhaps only because they are a dumb bird and cannot resist little moving things.
This time of year the quail bring their fluffy golf ball-sized babies on to the paving stones to snap up the ants.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:01 AM on May 12, 2011


I like velvet ants, a wingless wasp with a paaiiinnfull sting and a pretty furcoat.
posted by Iron Rat at 11:21 AM on May 12, 2011


Ants are really neat little creatures. These mimics are fascinating.

On the subject of things that do or don't eat ants: Antbirds don't eat ants, but they do use ants in a neat way while foraging. Some species of antbirds flock together and follow trails of army ants. They don't eat the army ants, but instead, they eat all of the insects that are flushed out of the vegetation by the army ant swarm.
posted by pemberkins at 11:25 AM on May 12, 2011


Some birds use the noxious chemicals of ants to rid themselves of mites, fungi, etc. in a process called anting, whereby they rub ants over themselves like a stick of deodorant.
posted by binturong at 11:31 AM on May 12, 2011


Male bird: Honey have you been using my ant again?
Female bird: Why of course not!
Male bird: Don't lie to me! You under-wing feathers are all over the abdomen!
posted by Splunge at 12:10 PM on May 12, 2011


reductiondesign: "Thankfully, when I smoosh an ant, I don't feel the need to eat it"

But you will after you read this comment.
posted by boo_radley at 12:22 PM on May 12, 2011


On the subject of things that do or don't eat ants:

Ant lions.
posted by 445supermag at 12:33 PM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the subject of things that do or don't eat ants:

Zombifying Fungi!!
posted by dhruva at 1:03 PM on May 12, 2011


Tangentially related, but here's the Donald Wolheim short story Mimic which I recently tracked down after years of it being that one story I read years ago but couldn't remember the title or author.
posted by gamera at 2:09 PM on May 12, 2011


Ants are one of the most abundant groups on earth

Is it true that ant species constitute the greatest share of all living matter on Earth by mass?
posted by Catfry at 5:36 PM on May 12, 2011


"Is it true that ant species constitute the greatest share of all living matter on Earth by mass?"

Not yet.
posted by sneebler at 9:13 AM on May 13, 2011


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