Atta cephalotes: Parade obstacle

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Atta cephalotes parade obstruction.

Atta cephalotes: Parade obstacle

Photo by Jason Wong

A parade of leafcutter ants clamber over an obstruction as they journey back towards their nest in Costa Rica. Atta foraging lines have been known to stretch up to 250 m away from a foraging hole - quite a distance when each ant measures only 0.5 cm or so!

If you think the "line" looks rather haphazard, you're probably right. Unlike army ants, which have very fast moving efficient lines of ants carrying prey back to the nest (with separate outward-bound lanes and nest-bound lanes), quite a number of leafcutter foragers tend to go the wrong direction once in awhile, and the confused mingling of incoming and outgoing traffic happens a lot.

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