This beetle bites an ant’s waist and pretends to be its butt
February 14, 2017 10:41 PM   Subscribe

The Atlantic reports on scientists studying Army Ants making a new discovery of a beetle species: Nymphister kronaueri, which hitchhikes on the ants whilst pretending to be their own backsides.

Part of the histeridae family, the newly discovered beetle has "an exceptional mechanism of phoresy".
posted by jzed (31 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
How disappointed I was to learn that "phoresy" wasn't an established etymology term for masquerading as a butt.
posted by little onion at 11:30 PM on February 14 [6 favorites]

I am waiting for the inevitable Ed Yong and Chuck Tingle collaboration.
posted by maudlin at 11:31 PM on February 14 [4 favorites]

"Phoresized In The Abdomen By My Own Gay Billionaire Histeridae Abdomen"
posted by little onion at 11:39 PM on February 14 [26 favorites]

Seriously, I gotta ask this.

posted by Samizdata at 11:40 PM on February 14 [5 favorites]

What is a simple bite on the buttocks among friends?
posted by groda at 11:59 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]

But then again, neither Genghis Khan nor Atilla the Hun rode around with people sitting behind them, clamped around their waists, pretending to be their butt.

citations needed, god such citations
posted by murphy slaw at 12:04 AM on February 15 [15 favorites]

Wow, like Slowbro?? But real??

...omg Pokemon took over my life, how
posted by potrzebie at 12:20 AM on February 15 [5 favorites]

This has been going on since forever and we just noticed. That's how good this beetle is at pretending to be an ant's abdomen. We should all be that good at what we do.
posted by pracowity at 12:55 AM on February 15 [13 favorites]

Finally, nature gives us a Trump metaphor
posted by chavenet at 2:45 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]

This is going to be the villain in the next Ant-Man movie, isn't it?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:08 AM on February 15 [4 favorites]

Or, I suppose, he could get kronaueri-lad as a rather unusual side backkick.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:54 AM on February 15

Nature is 🔥
posted by unliteral at 4:01 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]

Oh wow, what a cool article! I work in this lab, Daniel Kronauer is my advisor & Christoph was an awesome post-doc who now has an independent position. We study all sorts of things about army ants. Christoph focuses on the myrmecophiles (literally ant-loving insects), others do things like painting the ants so we can use a computer to do automatically track their behavior, imaging hormones and things in the brain, lots of sequencing, and even genome editing (this is my area). Here is a recent article that gives an overview of the lab. Happy to answer any questions!
posted by Buckt at 4:15 AM on February 15 [40 favorites]

Just bumming a ride.
posted by Segundus at 4:48 AM on February 15 [8 favorites]

...omg Pokemon took over my life, how

This has been going on since forever and we just noticed.

I dunno, I noticed Pokemon taking over my life a long time ago
posted by NMcCoy at 4:52 AM on February 15

A hot iron, now cooled in the queue.
posted by unliteral at 5:10 AM on February 15

my name is Beetul,
and wen its nite,
or wen the moon
is shiyning brite,
and all the ants
are gud and num -
i byt ther wastes.
i am a bum.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:28 AM on February 15 [32 favorites]

Nymphister kronaueri

More like Nymphkeister, amirite???
posted by greatgefilte at 5:37 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]

Haha. I've done this!
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 6:03 AM on February 15

Folks, I think we need to make sure that Buckt isn't just a very large beetle first.
posted by Etrigan at 6:08 AM on February 15 [3 favorites]

I've been reading Ed Yong's wonderful explications of natural history for many years. I'm glad to learn that he has found a good venue at the Atlantic Monthly. Unlike many pop-science writers, he always includes his sources.
posted by Agave at 7:00 AM on February 15

posted by LobsterMitten at 9:09 AM on February 15

I love this part:

The beetle is far from the only member of the army ant entourage. Despite the evident danger, at least 550 different species follow the marching legions, and around 300 depend on the ants for their survival. Together, they represent the single largest association of animals centered on a single species. Birds pick off insects that flee the ants. Parasitic Stylogaster flies shoot harpoon-like eggs at bolting cockroaches. Flesh flies lay eggs in injured victims that have somehow escaped. Tiny mites ride on the ants, with each species specializing on a different body part: one sucks blood from the base of the ants’ jaws, another rides on the feet, and yet another has only ever been found riding on their eyes.

I had always thought of them simplistically as just a ravaging flood, but of course it makes sense -- to evolution, an army ant colony is just another giant resource pool, and something(s) will evolve to exploit that resource.
posted by tavella at 9:24 AM on February 15 [4 favorites]

Them! (and the Beetles Posing as Their Extra Butts)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:40 AM on February 15

"Perhaps its disguise lies not in looking like an ant’s butt, but feeling like an ant’s butt."
Thanks for letting me read this sentence today.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:44 AM on February 15 [9 favorites]


My go-to thought in response to most natural-history posts is usually a variant on a comment that Bitter Old Punk posted in response to one of my own: "Damn, life. You tenacious."

In this case, the variant was, "Damn, life. You freaky." Which in turn reminded me of that line in the middle of "Uptown Funk" - "If you sexy, then flaunt it, if you freaky, then own it..."

The ants got the badonkadonk, don't believe me just watch....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:21 AM on February 15 [4 favorites]

posted by koeselitz at 1:47 PM on February 15

MetaFilter: feeling like an ant’s butt
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:31 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]

Obligatory coverage from CBC's As it Happens.
posted by greatgefilte at 3:53 PM on February 15

Is this how Voltron evolved?
posted by I-Write-Essays at 3:06 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]

others do things like painting the ants so we can use a computer...

Somehow I first read that as "painting the ants' toenails" which sounds adorable but really difficult.
posted by moonmilk at 9:41 AM on February 16

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