Question from a sentient Venus flytrap

Dear Antboy:

Ants are so tasty. Does anything there eat ants in strange and unusual and cool ways?

Dionaea muscipula

Wow, this blog sure is attracting its fair share of eccentric readers – this latest question was signed by Dionaea muscipula, more commonly known as the Venus Fly-Trap. I haven’t seen much in the way of your carnivorous plant friends around, and truth be told most things around here seem to eat ants in more or less the usual way (i.e. stuffing ant into mouth, chew, swallow), but one particularly common mode of ant demise that you might find appealing is that of the parasitic fungi of the genus Cordyceps. If you haven’t heard of these before, you should immediately go watch this video, taken from Planet Earth:

Like Mr. Attenborough says, each species of Cordyceps specializes on a single species of insect, and different species of Cordyceps can look very different from one another. Here’s a Cordyceps species that specializes on Cephalotes atratus:

Cephalotes atratus w/ sprouted Cordyceps

and here’s a different species that goes for Pachycondyla villosa:

IMG_3939

The fruiting bodies are the little translucent red ovoid sacs on stalks. One’s coming out from her trunk, but there are many more on her abdomen/gaster:
IMG_3944

Interestingly, this ant is still alive despite the presence of many fruiting Cordyceps bodies. Probably not for too much longer, though.

IMG_3954

I’ll keep an eye out for other things eating ants in unusual ways, though, and if I find anything I’ll let you know.

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About antboy

I'm a PhD student, studying the aerodynamics of gliding in arboreal wingless ants and other insects.
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