The ant that couldn’t stand up

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Melissotarsus is quite possibly the strangest ant I’ve ever encountered. It lives only in narrow galleries in the bark of particular species of African trees. It might be the only animal besides humans to farm other species for meat. The adults spin silk.

And Melissotarsus is so adapted to crawling about tight passages in tree bark that, outside the confines of the nest, workers are often incapable of standing upright. When I put the individual above on a piece of white plastic, she promptly fell over and could not right herself.

[more Melissotarsus]

15 thoughts on “The ant that couldn’t stand up”

  1. I was reading about them on a New Scientist blog:

    “They’re such committed burrowers that their second pair of legs points up, not down, so they can get a foothold in the tunnel roof as well as the floor.”

    Thats incredible! Apparently no one has ever seen them consuming the scale insects:

    “No one has yet caught Melissotarsus in mid-munch, partly because the ants like their privacy and quickly seal off any peepholes into their galleries.”

    Sounds like a challenge for a talented Myrmecologist/Photographer to me!

  2. As if Melissotarus wasn’t strange enough, Rhopalomastix decided to live a similar lifestyle tunneling under living bark.

    1. Yeah, and the two genera are closely related, although Rhopalomastix is not nearly so derived in appearance. Of the two, only Melissotarsus spins silk and keeps scale insects in the galleries.

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