Answer to the Monday Night Mystery

Allomerus octoarticulatus in the fungal matrix (Ecuador)

As many of you ventured, the odd tropical tangle of fibers was fungal carton from the galleries of an Allomerus ant.

inside the brood nest

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.

A swollen stem of Cordia nodosa houses a colony of Allomerus octoarticulatus

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.

7 got to Jan Kofahl for picking the ant genus (but the wrong species) and the fungus, and 3 to Roxana, for getting- without it happening to be in the picture- the plant.

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!

4 thoughts on “Answer to the Monday Night Mystery”

  1. I knew it! I meant to spell A. octoarticulatus not “A.ortoartuculatus”…hahaha This game is fun! I like it! You are fun Sir Alex Wild!. And I want to say thanks for the many pictures of yours that I use in my Ento lab powerpoints… Thanks!

  2. Marek?! Did JasonC die or what? Anyway, congratulations to the new champion! The king is dead, long live the king!

  3. Pingback: Overcoming MP-E lens failure – MYRMECOS - Insect Photography - Insect Pictures

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