A very nice discussion of what Charles Darwin called “Slave making ants.” I like how the author critiques Darwin for his use of anthropomorphic terminology to describe biological phenomena.
Several weeks ago I came across a curious highway of ants. They were streaming across the leaf litter in a column about a foot wide. The column started under an oak tree, traversed the leaf litter and hiking trail, then ended abruptly about forty feet away in an otherwise unremarkable patch of fallen leaves. Ants traveling away from the tree were carrying white, ant-sized objects in their jaws. Ants moving in the opposite direction were empty-mouthed. At the destination, a few smaller ants milled about, seemingly at ease among the larger ants that I was watching.
I suspected at the time that I was witnessing a raid by a so-called slave-making ant species. My skills as an ant taxonomist are limited and I turned to my colleagues for help. Thanks to James Trager and Ann Fraser, I’ve confirmed my suspicion and been able to tentatively identify the species in…
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