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Ants

Ants And The Ecosystem

Earth-dwelling species of ants turn and enrich more soil than do earthworms; predatory species of ants control insect pests and spider populations, as well as animal litter by devouring rotting carcasses. Other species of ants spread seeds, thereby propagating valuable vegetation. Ants can also be serious pests; for example, leaf-cutter ants, which grow fungi gardens for food, also strip massive amounts of leaves and flowers. They haul the vegetation to their nests and pulverize it into a paste, which they feed to fungi that grows like mold on bread. Ant colonies are enormous: one nest of the Brazilian ant Atta sexdens housed about 8 million ants. A colony this size can strip as much vegetation as a cow in just one day, causing serious agricultural destruction.

Resources

Books

Holldobler, Bert and Edward O Wilson. The Ants. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990.

Holldobler, Bert, and Edward O. Wilson. Journey to the Ants. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994.

Williams, David F., ed. Exotic Ants: Biology, Impact, and Control of Introduced Species. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994.


Marie L. Thompson

KEY TERMS

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Chemoreception

—Detection of chemical substances which act as messengers.

Crop

—Part of an ant's digestive tract that expands to form a sac in which liquid food is stored.

Eusocial

—Truly social, with complex societal structures.

Mandibles

—A pair of biting jaws in insects.

Milling

—Chewing and pulverizing hard seed into a powdery texture.

Pheromones

—Hormonal and chemical secretions.

Replete

—Ants that receive regurgitated liquid food from many worker ants, storing it in the crop for future regurgitation back to other hungry ants.

Spermatheca

—Oval pouch or sperm sac.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Anticolonialism in Southeast Asia - Categories And Features Of Anticolonialism to Ascorbic acidAnts - Mating, Reproduction, And Life Span, Labor Management, Defense And Offense, Communication, Ants And The Ecosystem - development Social structure and behavior