The Cliff-Diving Ant of Madagascar Heroically Protects its Nest
In 2014, researchers at the California Academy of Sciences (CAS) added 221 new plant and animal species to the family tree, enriching our understanding of Earth’s complex web of life. One of the new species is the “Hero Ant” — Malagidris sofina — which was found on the island nation of Madagascar by CAS entomologist and renowned ant expert Dr. Brian Fisher.
Dr. Fisher and his colleagues painstakingly observed the new species’ bold defense against invaders — a behavior they call “cliff-jumping” in the journal Insectes Sociaux. As soon as a foreign ant approaches the colony, a lone Hero Ant tackles the intruder, springing them both dramatically over the edge of the funnel-like nest (see video below).
“Some arboreal ants have been observed taking to the air to avoid a predator, but no type of ant is known to sacrifice itself alongside an invader,” said Dr. Fisher. “This remarkable species is one of thousands threatened by slash-and-burn agriculture in Madagascar. The more we know about this critically diverse region, the more we can do to help protect it.”
2014 was a banner year for scientific exploration in Madagascar and mainland Africa. Fisher and his research team found and described 110 new species of ants and four new genera, with several additional findings slated for publishing in the coming year.
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