Adrian Smith

‘Headhunter’ ants might keep enemy skulls for scent camouflage

Formica archboldi, a small, red ant native to the southeastern United States, has long stumped entomologists with its macabre habit of decorating its nests with the severed heads of larger, predatory trap-jaw ants. Researchers have now discovered that F. archboldi ants subdue aggressive trap-jaw ants with quick sprays of toxic acid, allowing them to harvest the heads and body parts, National Geographic reports. Insects rely heavily on scent cues to distinguish between friend and foe. The F. archboldi ants might, therefore, use the heads to cloak themselves in trap-jaw perfume so they can sneak up on trap-jaws or hide from another predatory species known as kidnapper ants, the scientists hypothesized this week in Insectes Sociaux.

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