Leafcutters in the Land of the Iguanas

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(en español)


If you are interested in leafcutter ants, or simply ants in general, then you might be interested in this DVD, which is dedicated 100% to close-up scenes of the daily life of the leafcutter ant Atta mexicana. When I was taping these critters it was for research purposes, but I found out later I could splice together segments and make a DVD.

The movie includes 46 minutes of footage of Atta mexicana leafcutter ants taken during our trip to Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta in Mexico in November/December of 2003. The most spectacular part (at least for me) is nearly 20 minutes long, and features great scenes of the leafcutters foraging on large seeds and fruits. The images are pretty good, and this segment is the basis for a study on the behavioral plasticity of Atta soldiers.

Some email comments by people who have seen the DVD:

- I received your packet and the DVD is awesome! The more detailed close-up shots, and longer footages impressed me more than the ones on your web site.

- Thanks for the video! I was amazed by how much film you took instead of short 2-minute segments like in the nature shows.

- I got the dvd--its awesome!

NOTE: This film is for private viewing purposes only. All rights remain with the author.

Leafcutters in Land of Iguana DVD.
I added a paper cover to the DVD showing a black and white print of a picture I took of Atta cephalotes in the NY Zoo. Cool, huh?

The DVD includes the following segments:

  Scene Description Length

Foraging Soldiers - Extended Version Awesome scenes of Atta majors foraging along with workers. In the background you can hear the constant roar of traffic as cars and trucks passed by - I was almost run over once or twice ;-)

This segment at 18 minutes is the longest segment, but it is also the best in the film (at least to people like me who don't mind watching 18 minutes of ants foraging!), with all the footage being close-ups of the ants cutting into the seeds and pods, as well as heading back to the nest. The image to the left actually is not representative of how close-up most of the scenes are - I noticed camcorders can get much closer to small objects thasn digital cameras.

18:58 min
Foraging Soldiers - Final Cut This final cut of the longer 19-minute version above shows leafcutter ants foraging on seeds and fruits at night. If you don't want to sift through 19 minutes of the uncut soldier foraging segment, this final cut at 4 minutes makes for a good synopsis. It was really cool seeing the soldiers balance the big round seeds and crawl slowly onwards. A low-res, shortened alternate version of this is downloadable from this website. 4 min
Battle vs Fire Ants This is an extended version of the fire ant battle. This was one of the first segments taped, and it shows. Too much moving around at times, although most of those segments were cut out of this version. However, the last scene in this segment showing a large soldier dragging herself painfully across the pavement, with dead ants hanging on her is priceless. You can almost feel her agony as she limps forward... 4:03 min
Phorid Attack This is the same as the one downloadable from the website, but obviously of a much higher image quality and with the usual background noise of trucks and cars in downtown Puerto Vallarta. 1:10 min
Night Foraging Extended version of files of leafcutter ants foraging on a nearby tree and bringing the cut leaves back to their nest. In the background, the lights of passing traffic remind viewers that fantastic cool stuff happens even in the most mundane of places. 4:10 min
Nest Excavation Extended version of ants clearing their mound. Some very nice closeup pics of swarms of workers with large pellets coming out of the nest hole and piling them to the sides. If you look closely, you might even see one worker picking up a dropped pellet and moving it further away. This phenomenon, called task patitioning, has been documented for leaf foraging, emigration (once), and waste removal, but never for mound clearing. 3:39 min
Nest Mound Menagerie This is only if you like hearing my nasal voice as I pan close to various Atta nest mounds. Gets boring really quickly unless you're into ant mound structures. The one interesting part is when I go over a nest mound that bursts from the sidewalks of the ultra-modern town of Nuevo Vallarta. After I made the film, I noticed a better segment that I had not included. Maybe I'll post that as a downloadbale quicktime film. 10 min

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