Answer to the Monday Mystery: A turtle ant with worms

What was yesterday’s anty swath of red? Here’s the uncropped photo:

Cephalotes_porrasi1
Cephalotes porrasi, nematode-induced intercaste (Belize)

This poor ant carried an unusually large gaster and an unusually shrunken head. Where else have we seen this syndrome recently? Oh, yeah.

As a larva, she was probably destined to be a major worker. We can deduce this from her size and from the incipient development of a head disc. Infection with a parasitic nematode must have stunted her growth somewhere short of full size. For comparison, here is a healthy major from the same colony:

porrasi1
Cephalotes porrasi, major worker (Belize)

Anyway. I’ll award 7 points to Morgan Jackson for being the first to genus and medical diagnosis, although this is C. porrasi, not C. atratus, as guessed. Two points go to Jon Sanders for correctly suggesting the C. pallens species group.

12 thoughts on “Answer to the Monday Mystery: A turtle ant with worms”

    1. If I’m not going to get even a token Myrmecos point for my (admittedly cryptic) discussion of Belize pallens clade species, and specifically porrasi, can we at least get to see the full series on alexanderwild.com soon? It is cruel to put up teasers of such great photos of such a beautiful species without being able to see the full set. Please. It will help fill the void of my lack of Myrmecos points.

      1. It’s not that you weren’t correct. It’s that you were first. Jon beat you to the pallens-clade by half an hour.

        Basically, the winning strategy is to camp out here Monday nights hitting “refresh” on your browser for a couple hours. It’s how I keep you guys off the streets and out of trouble. 🙂

        I didn’t collect any of these, but since we’re going back in September I’ll be sure to pick you up a full series. I’ll even put some Myrmecos points in the vial, if that helps to salve the pain.

        1. I still think we need a stewards enquiry. The question asked for species, not clade. I gave the right species, based on collection records, and (almost, sort of, correctly) noted that the characters didn’t match well. I think this whole thing is rigged 🙂

          On a more serious note, some ants would be awesome in the future, if you happen across them again. We only have porrasi material from Panama, so it might be interesting. I really would love to see any more shots you have too, when you get an chance to put them up. Especially if you have some shots of workers.

  1. Huh. So the parasite can cause an ant destined to be a soldier to end up with worker-like morphology (at least in the head)? That’s really interesting, given how decidedly non-allometric this is. I guess it hints there must be some developmental threshold the flip into the alternate morphology, and being deprived of energy these end up with still-worker morphology. Does that sound right? That might make these parasite/ant interactions a really good model system for understanding how the alternative developmental pathways are triggered.

Leave a Reply