In today’s day and age, blending in with the crowd is not only a talent but a necessity. It comes in handy, especially in a country as diverse as America. The way we talk, the clothes we wear, our hair styles and attitude all help us blend with our surrounding and gain acceptance into schools, associations, social clubs and careers. Believe it or not, there is new species of ant that also knows a lot about blending in.
Cephalotes specularis, also known as the mirror turtle ant, is a new species of ant that has the rare ability to infiltrate enemy lines. This is the first incident on record for ants. The mirror turtle ant was discovered by Scott Powell, assistant professor of biology at George Washington University. While researching turtle ants in Brazil’s savannah region, Powell discovered a species of ant able to infiltrate the turf of another type of ant. It wasn’t attacked for being a spy or for leeching off the colony, which is exactly what it was doing.
Powell spent the next two years trying to find out how this could be possible. After some time he concluded that this new species was able to behave like the one it was trying to fool. By imitating its body movements and keeping far enough away as not o allow its scent to be detected it was able to fool the other ant. So the clever mirror turtle ant was able to feast for free from the opposing ant’s food supply and even forage on its food trails.
According to Powell, “During rush hour, the mirror turtle ants, also colored black, dive out of their nest and rapidly merge into the high-speed traffic. Once inside the host’s foraging network, the mirror turtle ants disguise themselves among the enemy workers by mirroring their unique body movements. The impostors go largely unnoticed as they quickly weave through traffic lanes and dodge the host ants. This mimicking behavior allows the parasitic ants to successfully locate and exploit the host’s food resources.”
The mirror turtle ants are so masterful at this infiltration, that they are actually better at following chemical trails left by the host ant than those of their own workers. Powell’s study also revealed that mirror turtle ants were “embedded within a whopping 89 percent of host territories.”