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There are species of army ants where the worker caste may show polymorphism based on physical differences and job allocations; however, there are also species that show no polymorphism at all. The soldiers of army ants are larger than the workers, and they have much larger mandibles than the worker class of ants, with older soldiers possessing larger heads and stronger mandibles than the younger ones.

They protect the colony, and help carry the heaviest loads of prey to the colony bivouac. Males are large in size and have a large cylindrical abdomen, highly modified mandibles and uncommon genitalia not seen in other ants. In some instances where males seek to mate with a queen from an existing colony, the receiving workers will forcibly remove the wings in order to accommodate the large males into the colony for mating.

Colonies of real army ants always have only one queen, while some other ant species can have several queens. The queen is dichthadiigyne a blind ant with large gaster but may sometimes possess vestigial eyes. The army ant syndrome refers to behavioral and reproductive traits such as obligate collective foraging, nomadism and highly specialized queens that allow these organisms to become the most ferocious social hunters. Most ant species will send individual scouts to find food sources and later recruit others from the colony to help; however, army ants dispatch a cooperative, leaderless group of foragers to detect and overwhelm the prey at once.

The constant traveling is due to the need to hunt large amounts of prey to feed its enormous colony population. These three traits are found in all army ant species and are the defining traits of army ants. Army ants have two phases of activity—a nomadic wandering phase and a stationary statary phase—that constantly cycle, and can be found throughout all army ants species.

The nomadic phase begins around 10 days after the queen lays her eggs. This phase will last approximately 15 days to let the larvae develop. The ants move during the day, capturing insects , spiders , and small vertebrates to feed their brood. At dusk, they will form their nests or bivouac , which they change almost daily. The colony can then live in the same bivouac site for around 20 days, foraging only on approximately two-thirds of these days.

The stationary phase, which lasts about two to three weeks, begins when the larvae pupate. From this point on, the prey that were previously fed to the larvae are now fed exclusively to the queen. At the end of the stationary phase, both the pupae emerge from their cocoons eclosion and the next generation of eggs hatch so the colony has a new group of workers and larvae.

After this, the ants resume the nomadic phase. Army ants will split into groups when the size of the colony has reached a size threshold which happens approximately every three years.

I Could Have Been Born an Ant

When the colony fissions, there are two ways new queens are decided. A possible outcome is a new queen will stay at the original nest with a portion of the workers and the male brood while the old queen will leave with the other portion of workers and find a new nest. Another possibility is that the workers will reject the old queen and new queens will each head a newly-divided colony. When new bivouacs are formed, communication between the original colony and the new bivouacs will cease. Being the largest ants on Earth, army ants, such as African Dorylus queens have the greatest reproductive potential among the insects, with an egg-laying capacity of several millions per month.

Army ant queens never have to leave the protection of the colony, where they mate with foreign incoming males which disperse on nuptial flights. The exact mating behaviour of the army ant queen is still unknown, but observations seem to imply that queens may be fertilized by multiple males. When the queen ant dies, there is no replacement and army ants cannot rear emergency queens.


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Most of the time, if the queen dies, the colony will likely die too. Queen loss can occur due to accidents during emigrations, predator attack, old age or illness. When a colony loses its queen, the worker ants will usually fuse with another colony that has a queen in a few days.

When the queens emerge, the workers in the colony will form two 'systems' or arms in opposite directions. These queens that are hatched will move down either the arms and only two queens will succeed, one for each branch. Any remaining new queens will be left in the middle and are abandoned.

Two new bivouacs will be formed and break off into different directions. The workers will surround the two to-be queens to ensure they survive. These workers that surround the queens are affected by the CHC pheromone profile emitted from the new queen. When males hatch from their brood , they will fly off to find a mate. For males to access the queen and mate, they must run through the workers in the colony. Males that are favoured are superficially similar in size and shape to the queen. The males also produce large quantities of pheromones to pacify the worker ants.

In a colony , the queen is the primary individual responsible for reproduction in the colony. Analysis of genotypes have confirmed that workers are, on average, more closely related to the offspring of the queen than to that of other workers, and that workers rarely, if ever, reproduce. First, if the worker reproduces, it lowers the general performance of the colony because it is not working. This suggests that if workers produced male offspring, they might be hatched out of sync with the queen's sexual brood and not likely to be successfully reared to adulthood.

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The whole colony of army ants can consume up to , prey animals each day, so can have a significant influence on the population , diversity, and behaviour of their prey. Underground species prey primarily on ground-dwelling arthropods and their larvae , earthworms , and occasionally also the young of vertebrates, turtle eggs, or oily seeds. A majority of the species, the "colony robbers", specialize in the offspring of other ants and wasps. Only a few species seem to have the very broad spectrum of prey seen in the raiding species.

Even these species do not eat every kind of animal.

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Although small vertebrates that get caught in the raid will be killed, the jaws of the American Eciton are not suited to this type of prey, in contrast to the African Dorylus. These undesired prey are simply left behind and consumed by scavengers or by the flies that accompany the ant swarm.

Only a few species hunt primarily on the surface of the earth; they seek their prey mainly in leaf litter and in low vegetation. About five species hunt in higher trees, where they can attack birds and their eggs, although they focus on hunting other social insects along with their eggs and larvae. Colonies of army ants are large compared to the colonies of other Formicidae. Colonies can have over 15 million workers and can transport prey items per hour during the raid period.

The concentration of pheromone is highest in the middle of the trail, splitting the trail into two distinct regions: area with high concentration and two areas with low concentrations of pheromones. The outbound ants will occupy the outer two lanes and the returning ants will occupy the central lane. While foraging, army ants cause many invertebrates to flee from their hiding places under leaves of the forest floor, under tree bark, and other such locations, thereby allowing predators to catch them more easily. For example, in the tropical rainforests of Panama, swarms of army ants attract many species of birds to this feast of scrambling insects, spiders, scorpions, worms, and other animals.

Depending on the size of the ant swarm and the amount of prey the ants stir up, birds can number from a few to dozens of individuals.

Birds that frequent army-ant swarms include the white-whiskered puffbird , rufous motmot , rufous-vented ground cuckoo , gray-necked wood rail , plain-brown woodcreeper , northern barred woodcreeper , cocoa woodcreeper , black-striped woodcreeper , fasciated antshrike , black-crowned antshrike , spotted antbird , bicolored antbird , ocellated antbird , chestnut-backed antbird , black-faced antthrush , and gray-headed tanager.

Army ants do not build a nest like most other ants. Instead, they build a living nest with their bodies, known as a bivouac. Read our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy to get more information and learn how to set up your preferences. Likes Comments Like Just an off-topic question.

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How to Identify a Queen Ant: 7 Steps (with Pictures) - wikiHow

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