This poor little ants luck had run out today! A tiny rain shower, which lasted no more than 2 minutes and this little one bit the dust. Wrong place, wrong time I guess, a rain drop much have landed right on him. I think this is a Common Coastal Brown Ant.
I didn’t even nothice it was an ant in there till I took the shot, he was so small, looked like dirt. The drop is about 3mm in diameter sitting on a monster aloe-vera like plant.
Where: Good specimens from Germany and Wyoming, simular wings found in eastern North America and England.
What: The genus Titanomyrma (previous name Formicium) contains the largest ants (Formicidae) known; the queens can be up to ~2.5inches (6.3cm) long. For comparison army ants are about 2 inches (5 cm) in length. Not much at all is known about how these ants lived, it’s possible they swarmed like the modern army ant. Most of the fossils are winged queens found in lake deposits (the famous fossil lagerstatten localities of Green River, Wyoming and Messel, Germany). This suggests that these poor things drowned on their first flights out to establish their colonies.
The oldest ant fossils are from the late Cretaceous, and it is thought that they did not start to achieve their modern relative abundance until the Cenozoic - the same time mammals were radiating. The fossil record for ants is pretty spotty, as is the case for most terrestrial invertebrates. Hard parts are what fossilizes, and when the only thing hard on you is a fragile exoskeleton well… the odds are not good. Thus our knowledge of fossil ants is limited to these large forms and those smaller ones that were unlucky enough to become trapped in amber.
I am also really amused that they used a humming bird for scale in the photo of the Wyoming fossil pictured above. Did they just happen to have a spare one laying around?
“Oh we need a scale bar for this picture.”
“Scale bars are old news, we’re on the dead bird standard now. Take that, metric system!”
The bizarre disc on the head is used as a living door to block the nest entrance. To enter the nest in a mangrove twig, a foraging worker must pass this door-guarding soldier whose head is roughly the same size and shape as the entrance. These ants don’t build the nests themselves; rather, they inhabit burrows made by beetle larvae.
Turtle ants aren’t fighters. Rather, they’re all about defense. If a colony gets hold of an old beetle burrow, the heavily armored majors will plug the entrance with their head shield and sit tight, budging only to let their nestmates pass. They are literally living doors.