Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Baby Fire Ants Play Dead When Attacked

Opossums aren’t the only animals that play dead - turns out that fire ants do it too:

When threatened by danger, the young insects will play dead to fake out an attacker.

"No one has ever reported this before, and it was a big shock to me," said Deby Cassill, an evolutionary biologist at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. "Ants from an attacking colony will come up to inspect them, and they’ll be curled up just like a dead ant. Then moments later they uncurl and walk away."

Cassill and her students also noticed that as the ants age — some live six months to a year — they grow out of the curious behavior. Middle-aged ants tend to flee, while the eldest are aggressive and attack furiously.

"All worker ants are sterile females, so it’s the cranky old ladies who are the ones fighting to the death," Cassill said.

We all should know better than messing with cranky old ladies: Link (photo: Scott Bauer)

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