myrmeco-, myrmec-, myrme-, myrmic-, myrmi- +
(Greek: ant, ants)
Six labial and six maxillary muscles with different functions control the several joints and ensure the proper performance of the labiomaxillary complex.
Since glossa protractor muscles are absent, the protraction of the glossa, the distal end of the labium, is a nonmuscular movement.
Do ants really have tongues? They don’t have anything that looks like a vertebrate tongue, but they definitely have a structure that functions in the same manner.
The tongue structures of an ant are fairly complex, because an ant mouth has many functions to perform:
- groom themselves
- socially groom others, including the larvae
- determine food quality
- manipulate food
- ingest food
- give food to others via trophallaxis (mutual exchange of regurgitated food nutriments or other secretions that occurs between adults and larvae of certain social insects; such as, ants)
- beg for food from others
An ant mouth has many utensils and parts. There are brushes made of setae (stiff hair, or bristle); papillae (small protuberances on the tongue) for tasting; thin finger-like palps (segmented appendages usually found near the mouth in invertebrate organisms; such as, insects, the functions of which include sensation, locomotion, and feeding) for tasting, begging and manipulating; and various grooves and filters for moving and processing food.
The blade-like mandibles surrounding the mouth are for cutting, carrying, and in some species, catching prey.
They range across the southern United States and use vegetable matter and caterpillar droppings as a compost upon which to grow their fungus gardens.
These little ants are actually thieves, who hijack harvester ants carrying food they have gathered or captured in the surrounding area.
One of the strangest things of all about ancient ants is that relating to an ant discovered in Baltic amber and named Gesomyrmex.
Years later, it was found that this same ant still lives in Borneo. In this same tropical region are also found weaver ants (Oecophylla), but these ants once lived in the cool Baltic forests and they, too, became trapped in the sticky resin, thus furnishing additional proof that its climate was once warm and tropical.
Because of unusually low levels of intraspecific aggression, the Argentine ant can establish extremely large colonies.
This contributes to its status as a nuisance pest in homes and its ability to spread rapidly. Other negative effects of this invader include facilitation of plant feeding pest insects (for example, honeydew producing insects) and disruption of native ants, pollinators, and even vertebrates.
The Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, is among the world's most successful invasive species.
This ant has become a cosmopolitan pest, particularly in the Mediterranean climates of North America, Chile, South Africa, Australia, and southern Europe.
They have been very successful in spreading over great geographical areas, in part, because different nests of the introduced Argentine ants seldom attack or compete with each other, unlike most other species of ant.
In their invading ranges, their genetic makeup is so uniform that individuals from one nest can mingle in a neighboring nest without being attacked; so, in most of their introduced ranges they form "supercolonies".
Such ants have a social organization, called unicoloniality, allowing individuals to mix freely among physically separated nests.
These introduced Argentine ants are renowned for forming large colonies, and for becoming a significant pest, attacking native animals and crops.
In Europe, one vast colony of Argentine ants is thought to stretch for 6,000 km (3,700 miles) along the Mediterranean coast, while another in the U.S., known as the "Californian large", extends over 900 km (560 miles) along the coast of California. A third huge colony exists on the west coast of Japan.
While ants are usually highly territorial, those living within each super-colony are tolerant of each other, even if they live tens or hundreds of kilometers apart. Each super-colony, however, was thought to be quite distinct; however, it now appears that billions of Argentine ants around the world all actually belong to one single global mega-colony.
During research with these ants from different geographic areas, whenever the main European and Californian super-colonies and those from the largest colony in Japan came into contact, they acted as if they were old friends when they were observed rubbing their antennae with one another and never became aggressive or tried to avoid each other.
In other words, they acted as if they all belonged to one vast colony, despite living on different continents separated by vast oceans.
Their tunnels extend deeply into the earth, sometimes to depths of four or more feet, they are known to be aggressive, and are found near the coastal areas of Australia.
One kind of bulldog ant, Myrmecia gulosa, often attacks and kills large beetles, and some kinds can jump a foot or more. They are also swimmers and do not hesitate to go into water.
As a general rule, these ants feed mostly on vegetable material and some kinds cultivate fungus gardens. Others feed on honeydew obtained from aphids and other insects.
An outwardly "purposeful" category of dispersal is accomplished by plants through myrmecochory, the employment of attractive seed appendages and chemicals that induce the ants to transport the seeds without harming the embryo or endosperm. Myrmecochory is an almost world wide phenomenon.
Some specialized plant-dwelling ants protect their myrmecophyte hosts not only from herbivores but also from other plants that crowd in too closely.
There are also worker ants that attack and destroy any foreign plant that sprouts within 40 centimeters of the trunk of the acacia in which they live, and they cut back vines and foliage of neighboring trees that touch the acacia crown.
This pruning action has the effect of promoting the growth and survival of the host plant, but it also removes bridges over which alien ants can attack the resident colony.
Harvesting ants do not manage to carry all the seeds they collect back to their nests, and they do not eat all of the seeds stored in their granaries.
The result is that ants are a major and fortuitous dispersal agent for plants. They are especially effective in deserts and grasslands, but many species, not necessarily specialized harvesters, play some role even in tropical forests.