The animal kingdom is filled with all kinds of predator-prey relationships, from incredible hunting techniques to elaborate camouflages. Avoiding predators is hard work for many animal species on Earth. Playing dead might be considered a fun trick to teach your pet, but researchers in Australia He discovered that some ant colonies can pretend to be dead as a whole to avoid being eaten.
Researchers on Kangaroo Island (Australia)Kangaroo Island) dwarf opossum and bat checking nest boxes, from southern broad-nosed spiny ants (Polyrhachis femorata) found a large colony formed. The entire colony stood so still that the team struggled until one of the ants moved. believed that the group was actually dead. The team says this is the first time an entire ant colony has been observed worldwide to exhibit this behavior. It is also noted that this species was found for the first time on the island.
Docent S “Topa” Small In a statement made by theHis imitations were perfect” is called. The statement continues:When we opened the box, we saw all these dead ants… and then one of them moved slightly. This type of defensive inactivity is known only among a few ant species (in individuals or in certain castes), but we do not know of any other instances where it has been observed throughout the entire colony.”
pretending to be dead in the animal kingdom
Playing dead occurs in a variety of species, typically mammals such as opossums, that use this strategy to avoid predators. This method is seen in insects, including other ant species, usually only in solitary individuals, and their ability to stay still can be the difference between their survival and their ability to eat.
Kangaroo Island was severely affected by forest fires in 2019-2020, and the team found that the unburned mallee of ant species (dwarf eucalyptus trees native to Australia) thinks they are actively looking for new nesting sites because they are in their habitat. It has also been discovered that ants block the entrances of their nest boxes with organic matter, possibly to gain more defense against predators.
Petit explained, “In some of the boxes containing Polyrhachis femorata colonies, some individuals took some time to stop moving and others did not. It is difficult to understand what triggers the behavior” he continued.
While the team cannot rule out ants’ obedient, defensive, or inaction-avoiding behavior, the team says they believe the most likely explanation is that the ants are pretending to be dead.
The article was published in the Australian Journal of Zoology.