Superstition Mtns Road Trip #4: Part 5
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Sonoran Desert Ants (1)
© W.P. Armstrong 6 February 2013
Ant Images From SW United States & Tropics
Images Of Imported Fire Ants From San Diego
Ant Images From Arizona Trip In October 2012
  Ant Images From The Hawaiian Island Of Maui  
Subfamily Myrmicinae: Long-Legged Ants (Aphaenogaster cockerelli)

This native ant of the Sonoran Desert has very long (spider-like) hind legs and a pair of slender spines on the propodeum (black arrows in left image). The propodeum is the first segment of the abdomen, located anterior to the petiole. It is fused with the posterior end of thorax. Although this is a large ant, it does not sting and is not aggressive as in harvester ants of the genus Pogonomymex. This species has been referred to as the "cowardly lions of the ant world" because it would rather run than fight.

The typical egg-laying role in an ant colony is performed by a mated queen. In Aphaenogaster colonies, workers may occasionally lay unfertilized (parthenogenetic) eggs. Since the eggs are haploid, they will only develop into males. Egg-laying workers produce chemicals called cuticular hydrocarbons that sister workers detect. Since egg-laying by workers in colonies with a queen is "forbidden," sister workers "punish" the fertile worker by biting it. Some popular articles refer to this egg-layer behavior as "cheating." Its remarkable group coordination (collective transport of objects) has been used in the study of robotics. This ant species has been studied extensively by Bert Holldobler, Adrian Smith and Jurgen Liebig at the School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe.

Aphaenogaster cockerelli: Conspicuous dorsal spine (black arrow) on propodeum.

Workers of Aphaenogaster cockerelli moving a large piece of nutrition bar. The group coordination (collective transport) in this ant species has been used for research in robotics.