death

The mystery of the ant’s cadaver

A grisly scene in Kibale forest, Uganda:

I found this long-dead cadaver stuck to a tree trunk at about waist height. The body must have been there for months or even years, judging from the moss growing across the cuticle.

Why is this puzzling? Rainforests are intensely competitive environments, and free protein does not stick around for long. So why would a perfectly good ant go uneaten?

My suspicion is fungus. If the ant was killed by a Cordyceps-type organism, the tasty innards would long have been consumed by the parasite. Still, that’s just a guess.

In life, the ant (Polyrhachis militaris) would have been covered in golden hairs.

A couple mortraits

I sometimes get requests for stylistic pictures of dead ants.  From pest control industry folks, usually.  And I always have to beg off.  Somehow, with my global image library of hundreds of different ant species, I’ve had nothing but live insects.  Dead bugs never held much aesthetic appeal, I guess.

Well, Pest Control People.  Just for you I’ve sold out.  Here, at last, is your ex-ant.

fulva8

fulva7

(Incidentally, this ant wasn’t even dead.  It was knocked out with CO2 and walked off 5 minutes later.)