Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Ant Mimicry

Ants are often unpalatable to insect-eating birds due to the formic acid present in their abdomens, so they're often avoided in favor of other prey items. Any potential prey item that happens to look like an ant will have a better chance to live another day than one that doesn't. This selective pressure seems to have led many unrelated arthropods to take on body forms (and behavior) that mimic those of ants.

There are a large number of ant mimic spiders, that often look remarkably like the ant species they're associated with. Because they look like the ants, they are free to go about their business hunting the ants without intervention by birds. The ant mimic mantis probably gains the same freedom to hunt near ant colonies, though I haven't read anything specific about its life-style.

Though I have seen ant mimics in real life (spiders and the occasional beetle), I don't have any of my own photos for illustration. Because they mimic the behavior of ants (in addition to the look), they tend not to stay still for my camera. I've never really gotten a good photo of an ant either, for the same reason.

The photos that follow here were found around the web and I have no legal claim to them, though I feel their educational use here should provide me some protection as fair-use under US copyright law.

Spider
Macroxiphus sp cricket.
Dulichus inflatus (Hemiptera)
Euderces beetle.
Asian Ant Mantis (Odontomantis planiceps)
References: