Friday, May 27, 2011

Los tres amigos

We've been hard at work catching ants! In the jungle, this can be both
trivial and an enormous challenge: ants are absolutely everywhere, so
if you're not picky, you hardly have to do more than open your
collection tube; on the other hand, if you want several colonies of
the same species, you may find yourself spending a lot of time chasing
ants through the foliage.

Here's a fun shot of some turtle ants, <i>Cephalotes atratus</i>,
tending membracid leafhoppers. <i>Cephalotes</i>, the genus on which
my research is focused, are a bit of a mystery -- most of the time,
they don't really seem to be doing anything more than walking around
and maybe licking a leaf every now and then. Consequently, they're
something of a challenge for the behavioral ecologist! <i>C. atratus</
i> is a rare and delightful exception. These fabulously spiky ants are
not only conspicuous (almost an inch long!) and abundant, they can
often be found 'farming' other insects for their sugary secretions.
These membracids may even be mimicking their spiky black farmers!


todicus said...

Awesome photo Jon! Using a 100mm macro? I like their plump antennae; what data might they be gathering?!

Jon Sanders said...

Dude: long time. The internet is amazing.

I'm on a kick with my new MP-E 65mm macro. This shot would have been better with the 100mm, though -- these ants are BIG!