Atta - Alex Wild Photography
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Atta cephalotes. Ants carrying leaves are vulnerable to attack by parasitic phorid flies.  To help prevent attacks, small guard workers often ride atop the cut vegetation, mandibles open in defensive posture.  Intriguingly, hitchhiking is only seen in regions inhabited by the flies. Outside the geographic range of the parasites, leafcutter ants do not show this leaf-riding behavior.

Gamboa, Panama

Atta cephalotes. Ants carrying leaves are vulnerable to attack by parasitic phorid flies. To help prevent attacks, small guard workers often ride atop the cut vegetation, mandibles open in defensive posture. Intriguingly, hitchhiking is only seen in regions inhabited by the flies. Outside the geographic range of the parasites, leafcutter ants do not show this leaf-riding behavior. Gamboa, Panama

Atta cephalotesAttaAttiniMyrmicinaeformicidaeHymenopterabugsinsectsinsectantsleafcutter antsleafcutting antleaf cutter antleaf cutting antparasol antsfungus growing antsecologymutualismsymbiosisysauhormigashormiga cortadoracortadorasfourmisworker antsridersridingworker castssocial insectsparasitesprotectioncarryingleafbehaviortropics