These ants decorate their homes with the heads of their enemies
We’re beginning to understand how and why one species goes after larger foes—and it may have something to do with evading kidnapper ants.
Scientists are beginning to solve a mystery involving three ants: A headhunter, a formidable biter, and a kidnapper.
For 60 years, scientists have known that one species of small, rust-colored ant known as Formica archboldi likes to decorate its nests with skulls, or head cases, of several kinds of trap-jaw ants.
This is bizarre, because trap-jaw ants come equipped with potent stingers and gigantic mandibles that can snap closed like a beartrap. These massive mouthparts come with some special features, such as allowing the insects to catapult to freedom when facing attack.
Diminutive F. archboldi ants, native to Florida and surrounding states, nevertheless succeed in taking them down and nabbing their heads—but how?
“Something weird was going on but no one had looked