Ants: predators and prey

I recently came across this neat video of an ant colony dismantling a dead gecko.

I was certain that I read once about ants killing large vertebrates, rather than simply feeding on carcasses.  After a bit of research I came across driver ants (of the army ant genus Dorylus) that can kill large, living vertebrates as well (that video is a bit gruesome…).  Of course, since colonies can only move 20 metres per hour, you pretty much have to be asleep for them to catch you and most deaths (of which there are very few) are caused by asphyxiation.

Interestingly, it is the aggression of this genus of ants that makes it possible for chimpanzees to “dip” or “fish” for them.  “Ant fishing” occurs when chimpanzees (I think it is only common chimpanzees, Pan trogladytes, and bonobos, Pan paniscus, which perform this behaviour) insert a stem or stick into an ant nest.  “Ant dipping”, on the other hand, occurs outside of the nest where the ants are not confined.  Dorylus species march in long, slow columns in it is here that chimpanzees and bonobos “dip”.  In both cases, the ants are provoked into attacking the tool from which the chimpanzee then consumes the ants.  Here is a video showing chimps fishing for carpenter ants:

It isn’t only chimps who exploit these ants – this aggression has also been harnessed by humans.  Driver ants have a very beneficial impact on the lives of African farmers, ridding their fields and homes of a range of pest species from termites to rats.


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