Workers of New Ant Species Have Big, Weird Heads

By Gizmodo on at

This is a worker ant of the newly-discovered species Carebara lilith. You may notice that it has an absolutely enormous noggin. Why?

This Charlie-Brown-looking insect is not a special kind of ant—it’s a special kind of a special kind of ant. This is one of two species discovered Western Kenya, the other one being Carebara phragmotica. These two ants were originally plucked from leaf litter, then mis-categorised as other ants, before being revealed to be their own species.

Workers of New Ant Species Have Big, Weird Heads

The first thing to notice about this specific sample is its comically over-sized head. If ants had a spine, that head would snap it. Just to add insult to injury, the head secretes slime. This makes organic matter and dirt stick to the head as the ant, which is a worker, goes about its business.

When there’s a threat to the nest, these moving drawing pins manoeuvre themselves to the nearest entrance to the nest and jam their dirty heads into it, width-wise. Their heads perfectly fill the space, camouflaging and protecting it, while shields protect their eyes and antennae from attackers. This had earned them the name “door-head ants.” It’s probably earned them a lot of brain injuries as well, but that’s the life of an ant, for you.

[Source: Two New Phragmotic Ant Species From Africa]

Image: Dr. Georg Fischer.