Atta cephalotes: Bala ant massacres III

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Atta cephalotes: Bala ant massacres III - A Soldier's Last Stand

Photos by Tim Linksvayer

Attacks by Paraponera clavata on Atta cephalotes was the subject of a paper by James Wetterer (1994), when he found a group of Paraponera attacking and killing a foraging arm of an Atta cephalotes colony that went up a tree. When the foraging arm was very dense, the larger ants avoided mass Atta attack by only picking off solitary foragers along the edges, but once the arm thinned, they actively pursued laden workers coming down and killed a few hundred foragers. Wetterer mentioned that he never saw conflict between Acromyrmex sp and Paraponera, except for one time, when two Acromyrmex workers were attacking a lone Paraponera that had strayed too close to their nest.

Literature Cited:
Wetterer J (1994). Attack by Paraponera clavata prevents herbivory by the leaf-cutting ant, Atta cephalotes. Biotropica 26(4): 462-465

A huge Atta soldier rears up on stilt-like legs as she confronts a much larger Paraponera clavata "bala" ant. In this series of images, one of the "bulldozer-like" Atta cephalotes soldiers tackles a huge Paraponera worker, which is soon joined by her comrades, much to the dismay I'm sure of the lone leafcutter.

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The Paraponera clavata curves her abdomen and stings the Atta soldier, which had locked mandibles with the huge bala ant.

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The two ants continue to struggle, with the Atta soldier putting up an unexpected show of resistance against the bala ant and its venomous sting, which can debilitate a man for days.

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A second bala ant attacks the leafcutter from behind while the soldier continues to grapple with the first bala ant.

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Finally, a third bala ant comes and seals the fate of the leafcutter. Faced by her three much larger opponents, the brave soldier is doomed - she cannot hope to prevail against the crushing mandibles and potent stings of all 3 giant ants.

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