Workers of New Ant Species Have Big, Weird Heads

This is a worker ant of the newly-discovered species Carebara lilith. You may notice that it has an absolutely enormous noggin. Why?

This Charlie-Brown-looking insect is not a special kind of ant—it’s a special kind of a special kind of ant. This is one of two species discovered Western Kenya, the other one being Carebara phragmotica. These two ants were originally plucked from leaf litter, then mis-categorized as other ants, before being revealed to be their own species.

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The first thing to notice about this specific sample is its comically over-sized head. If ants had a spine, that head would snap it. Just to add insult to injury, the head secretes slime. This makes organic matter and dirt stick to the head as the ant, which is a worker, goes about its business.

When there’s a threat to the nest, these moving thumbtacks maneuver themselves to the nearest entrance to the nest and jam their dirty heads into it, width-wise. Their heads perfectly fill the space, camouflaging and protecting it, while shields protect their eyes and antennae from attackers. This had earned them the name “door-head ants.” It’s probably earned them a lot of brain injuries as well, but that’s the life of an ant, for you.

[Source: Two New Phragmotic Ant Species From Africa]

Image: Dr. Georg Fischer.

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