Sunday, February 28, 2010

Don't mess with a Dune Ant

As I mentioned previously, survival against the harshest imaginable conditions was a constant theme for us during our visit to Namibia. Well, not for us as well looked after tourists, but certainly for the all of the wildlife around us. We were constantly awed at what we learned about the ingenious survival techniques of desert dwellers. And not only must the animals be incredibly resourceful, but tough, tough, tough.

Take the Dune Ant. Every time I photographed one, after one or two snaps, the insect would sense me and, rather than scurrying away, actually stop its activities to look up at me and cock its sharp mandibles menacingly. As if to say, "Hey! Hey! Yeah, you, the papa-frickin-razzi. I'm workin' here. We ain't all on vacation. Get that lens outa my face before I bite your ass."

After coming home I read a bit more about the Dune Ant, and I'm even more impressed. They actually herd scale insects like livestock in order to milk their sugary secretions. And, according to a short description I read on, they can navigate by the angle of the sun and "in order to limit water loss, they breathe in short rapid bursts." They also fiercely defend their nests and will fight intruders to the death, pinning a rival ant to the hot sand to cook it alive. Wow.

Have a look at this video courtesy of Animal Planet which explains more about this tenacious ant. And click the photos for a better, close up view.

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