As many of you ventured, the odd tropical tangle of fibers was fungal carton from the galleries of an Allomerus ant.
While most biologists think of leafcutter ants when imagining an ant-fungal symbiosis, it turns out that other ants also have mutually beneficial fungal relationships. One of the more interesting is the Neotropical myrmicine Allomerus. This miniscule yellow insect constructs a matrix of plant debris that their fungus grows through to strengthen into a reinforced gallery. I was not looking for Allomerus during my recent Ecuador expedition, but when I happened across a colony nesting in the hollow stem of Cordia nodosa I dropped everything else to photograph it.
The prevaling view is that the ants use carton as a platform to ambush prey. I’m not entirely sold on that interpretation. Mark Moffett, writing in Adventures Among Ants, discusses the dissenting view in more detail:
Anyway. You can read more from your own copy of the book.
It is time for the cermonial awarding of points.
And so we arrive at the end of March. Tallying points from the month, our winner is Marek B, with 10 points. Morgan Jackson, with 8, takes second.
Marek, contact me for your loot!