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Who says ants are airheads?

Who says ants are airheads?

Suppose you had a large head and you learned that a lunatic was decapitating big-headed people who walked to work during the day. Would you start working the night shift? That seems the approach taken by some Atta cephalotes, tropical ants subject to decapitation by parasitic flies of the genus Neodohrniphora.

After mating, female flies sneak up on ants foraging for leaf litter and inject a tiny fly egg into the skull of each ant. As the eggs develops into a larva, or maggot, it consumes the ant's head from the inside out.

Research by Donald H. Feener Jr. of the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues indicates that these flies -- which only fly by day -- require ant heads at least 1.6 millimeters in diameter. And the scientists report another intriguing observation: Call it evolutionary necessity rather than intelligence if you choose, but a disproportionate number of the A. cephalotes whose heads exceed 1.6 mm put off their foraging until after dark.
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Author:Weiss, Rick
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 23, 1989
Words:171
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