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Fungus-growing ants

A line of ants carrying leaves

One of the greatest miracles in the world of ants is offered by the fungus-growing or leaf-cutter, represented by Atta.

These ants are mainly known for the way they carry leaves, twigs or flowers to their nest. But they do not eat them, all this work is to culture the fungus, the only food they can digest.

Any Atta society focuses on fungus cultivation, beginning with castes of workers :

- The majors involved in cutting the leaves into pieces with their powerful mandibles.
- The medians transport the leaves to the nest.
- The minors (300 times lighter than the majors!) cultivate fungis. They chew the leaves and digest them in their crop then spit on the fungus.

A major Atta cutting a leaf
A man next to the enormous anthill

Note that the fungus can not survive outside the sheltered environment of the nest, and that conversely, these ants can not live without the fungus. This is a total symbiosis.

This species of ant is really exciting, and we could talk for hours. To learn more, I recommend a site.

- This wikipedia page on ants Atta .
- The film "The mystery of the ants" with a remarkable passage where researchers lay bare an anthill of more than 50m2. ( part 1 / part 2 / part 3)

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