Amazin' Amazon Mystery Animals
Mystery Animal #13 - Answer: Army Ants
By the tens of thousands, swarm raiding army ants methodically sweep across swaths of forest floor, tackling whatever they can and devouring whatever they tackle. Contrary to popular South American belief they do not eat plants and destroy crops. In fact, they respond to movement, only attacking floor dwelling critters that scamper and scurry in response to their raid. Plants and animals that stay put, and even dead animals, are ignored. Humans who find themselves in the midst of an army ant brigade can escape by walking quickly past the edge of the swarm. They might get bitten by a handful of ants, but are too large to be overtaken in the time it takes for them to walk through the storm. Other large and quick animals can escape in the same manner, but slow and small animals, like insects, spiders, scorpions, baby birds and many others, become part of the smorgasbord. When swarm raiding army ants pass through a human house, its residence must simply get out and stay out until the assault is over, untying any tethered animals before they do. It's certainly an inconvenience, but, on the plus side, the ants make good exterminators, temporarily ridding the house of the wide array of pests that typically live in a rain forest dwelling.
The picture above is of an Eciton
burchelli major soldier - one of only two species of swarm raiders. The other
48 or so species of army ants are nocturnal, underground column raiders.
Thanks to Dr. Monica Swartz of the Department of Zoology at the University of Texas at Austin for providing the photo and information about the behavior of army ants.
© 2007 OneWorld Classrooms - All rights reserved.