The stomach of the superorganism

Ant larvae are fascinating. I wish more studies of ant behavior included them.

Gnamptogenys striatula, Belize, eating fire ant carcasses.

While not as flashy as adults, immature ants are just as important to the functioning of a colony. Not just for the obvious reason that all ants must grow up from larvae, either. It’s that larvae are the gut of the colony.

Larvae are the only individuals that can eat solid food. Adults can’t pass solids through their extremely narrow guts. Yet protein-rich foods, like arthropod carcasses, are typically meaty. So if an ant colony is to use these resources, the larvae must digest them first. In most species, the grubs can then regurgitate a liquid protein slurry back to the adults.

Anyway, this post is really just a long-winded excuse to share the above photograph of charmingly furry Gnamptogenys larvae making quick work of some fire ants their older sisters have brought them.

photo details:
Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 7D
ISO 4oo, f/13, 1/250 sec
Diffuse off-camera strobe

9 thoughts on “The stomach of the superorganism”

  1. Pingback: Babies: The Gut of the Colony | Formicidae Fantasy

    1. I don’t think Gnamptogenys striatula is an ant-hunting specialist like some of its congeners. I suspect these are just scavenged, but I’d be very interested to know if that’s not the case!

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