Baby Fire Ants Play Dead When Attacked

Opossums aren't the only animals that play dead - turns out that fire ants do it too:

When threatened by danger, the young insects will play dead to fake out an attacker.

"No one has ever reported this before, and it was a big shock to me," said Deby Cassill, an evolutionary biologist at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. "Ants from an attacking colony will come up to inspect them, and they'll be curled up just like a dead ant. Then moments later they uncurl and walk away."

Cassill and her students also noticed that as the ants age — some live six months to a year — they grow out of the curious behavior. Middle-aged ants tend to flee, while the eldest are aggressive and attack furiously.

"All worker ants are sterile females, so it's the cranky old ladies who are the ones fighting to the death," Cassill said.

We all should know better than messing with cranky old ladies: Link (photo: Scott Bauer)

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I had no idea that young ants did this. I wonder how effective it is?
However, about older women of any form, you must watch out for them. They don't have anything to lose.
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The title of your post is incorrect--these are not "baby" ants, they are adults. Baby ants...well, look a lot like a maggot.

Ants go through complete metamorphosis, so change radically from a larva to a pupa to an adult.

This research is about young (recently emerged from a pupa) adult ants.

Bug Girl, roving insect pedant
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Everytime I see anything about fire ants I remember my 10th grade World History teacher who told us a story about an explorer in either central or latin america who had a member of their party eaten alive by fire ants after he was captured and tied to a tree. I couldn't get that out of my head. It seems like the most horrific way to die, because it happens from the inside!
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