Slavemaker ant pair

A few species of ant are pirates that enslave other ants

Oct 28th, 2015 Interactions 1 min read

Not far from you, ants are fighting for their freedom. They have been victimised by “slave-maker” ants, which subjugate other ant species to do their work for them. To recruit slaves, the slave-makers deploy troops that conduct raids on surrounding colonies. The system can be terrifyingly effective, in a sense akin to the horrific methods humans have used to keep slaves in line. The enslaved…

Infected ant

The ants that self medicate

Sep 1st, 2015 Interactions 1 min read

When this ant feels an infection coming on, it doses itself with the precise amount of medicine it needs. Only, the “pharmacy” it heads to is not exactly a clean, well-lit room. Instead, it goes to find rotting animal carcasses, nectar or honeydew secretions from aphids. The ant, Formica fusca nests in soil or under rotten logs and stones. Nearby, a deadly fungus lurks. Once tiny spores…

Gloomy octopus

Octopuses seen throwing things may be using shells as weapons

Aug 24th, 2015 Interactions 1 min read

Octopuses have been recorded gathering up armfuls of debris – and remember, they have eight arms – before taking pot shots at one another. Whether it’s a case of “get off my turf” or merely “oops, didn’t mean to hit you” is still a puzzle. Octopuses have siphons on the side of their body, which they normally use for jet propulsion – they expel water…

Greening’s frog  (Corythomantis greening)

This venomous frog has killer spines on its head

Aug 6th, 2015 Amazing 1 min read

When Carlos Jared picked up a little frog hiding in the scrublands of the Brazilian Caatinga, he didn’t expect to be hurt. And he didn’t expect an intense pain radiating up his arm for the next five hours. “It took me a long time to realise that the pain had a relationship with the careless collection of these animals,” he recalls. Now he understands why….

Japanese Oakblue with its attendant ants

Caterpillar drugs ants to turn them into zombie bodyguards

Jul 31st, 2015 Interactions 1 min read

Kill, Fido! Docile ants become aggressive guard dogs after a secret signal from their caterpillar overlord. The idea turns on its head the assumption that the two species exchange favours in an even-handed relationship. The caterpillars of the Japanese oakblue butterfly (Narathura japonica) grow up wrapped inside leaves on oak trees. To protect themselves against predators like spiders and wasps, they attract ant bodyguards, Pristomyrmex punctatus, with…