C. von Beeren et al., BMC Ecology, 11:30 (1 December 2011)

ScienceShot: Insect Invader Rubs Shoulders With Ants

Talk about being embedded in enemy territory. A newly described species of silverfish (Malayatelura ponerophila)—a 6-millimeter-long golden-brown insect with spikes on its tail—spends its entire life among a colony of army ants (Leptogenys distinguenda). So how does it avoid be spotted? By rubbing against baby ants to pick up their scent, researchers report online this month in BMC Ecology. The ants rely mostly on chemical cues to identify their nest mates, and as long as the odor doesn't fade away, the silverfish gets free food and shelter. The silverfish can't get too lazy, however. If it doesn't continually replenish the scent, the ants grow wise and attack their uninvited guest.

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