Sunday, May 15, 2011
Adetomyrma venatrix, the Dracula Ant
For your average ant, work is grueling no matter what species you belong to. All working towards the common good and hoping the colonies lineage will be passed on, even if it takes the sacrifice of a few workers. But there is one species where sacrifice becomes a full time job.
To find it, you must search the Zombitse Forest. Yes, you are looking for ants in a forest in Western Madagascar that does not give you pause to consider the sanity of looking for something called Dracula Ants in amongst the brush which will be sure to be infested with tiny zombies. After the initial lamentations, you should be up to scowling out these tiny forest creatures.
Eventually you will find a colony of Adetomyma venatrix, the Dracula Ant. At first look you might be intrigued by the ants body form. Nearly a 'missing link', these ants resemble wasps more than ants. They have only one joint between their thorax and abdomen instead of three like other species of ants. They also have an elongated stinger as well as have lost the use of their eyes.
About now you are probably wondering why does this evolutionary curiosity have such a distinguished name as Dracula? Well this has to do with how they gain their nourishment. Normal ants have their larvae eat the food and pre-digest it for the workers and pass it along. But Dracula Ants are busy and need their nourishment a bit more...fluidic.
Hungary queens, drones, and workers need only chew open the head of one of their own young to find all the nutrients they could need. Their larvae have an abundance of blood, well actually, Hemolymph, which the adults of the colony can just drink their fill of.
When observed it is noted that the larvae are not fond of the arrangement in the least, as they try to crawl away when workers are present and tiny ant screams can even be detected as the adults drink their younger's vital fluids. The survivors then pupate into adult ants and continue the cycle of work and "nondestructive cannibalism".