The World War of the Ants – The Army Ant


Some groups just don’t get along.​Some groups just don’t get along.​Every day, billions of soldiers fight a merciless war​Every day, billions of soldiers fight a merciless war​on thousands of fronts, and it’s
been going on for over 100 million years.​
on thousands of fronts, and it’s
been going on for over 100 million years.​
The World War of the Ants.​The World War of the Ants.​Ants are ancient beings that
arose around 160 million years ago,​
Ants are ancient beings that
arose around 160 million years ago,​
and took over a wide variety of
ecological niches so successfully​
and took over a wide variety of
ecological niches so successfully​
that they became one of the
dominant animals on planet Earth.​
that they became one of the
dominant animals on planet Earth.​
Today, they count more than 16,000 different species​Today, they count more than 16,000 different species​with over 10 thousand trillion individuals.​with over 10 thousand trillion individuals.​Collectively, ants alone make up
20% of the entire animal biomass on land.​
Collectively, ants alone make up
20% of the entire animal biomass on land.​
Similar to humans, their
recipe for success is collaboration.​
Similar to humans, their
recipe for success is collaboration.​
While a single ant is pretty useless,​While a single ant is pretty useless,​together, they are able to achieve stunning feats.​together, they are able to achieve stunning feats.​They construct complex colonies,​They construct complex colonies,​care for livestock,​care for livestock,​pursue agriculture,​pursue agriculture,​or have complex symbiotic relationships.​or have complex symbiotic relationships.​And, of course, ants wage war.​And, of course, ants wage war.​Even among the same species, a
constant state of conflict is pretty common.​
Even among the same species, a
constant state of conflict is pretty common.​
Skirmishes, raids, and full-on invasions​Skirmishes, raids, and full-on invasions​are happening every day,
causing millions of casualties.​
are happening every day,
causing millions of casualties.​
Let’s look at some of the most
interesting ones in a series of videos.​
Let’s look at some of the most
interesting ones in a series of videos.​
In this one, the ​​army ant​—a swarm made for war.​In this one, the ​​army ant​—a swarm made for war.​The army ant group consists of about 200 different species.​The army ant group consists of about 200 different species.​Army ants do not build nests;
they live a sort-of nomadic lifestyle​
Army ants do not build nests;
they live a sort-of nomadic lifestyle​
with groups of millions of individuals.​with groups of millions of individuals.​On a hunt, some species form
large columns up to 100 meters long,​
On a hunt, some species form
large columns up to 100 meters long,​
killing and immediately dismembering every
insect or small vertebrate they encounter.​
killing and immediately dismembering every
insect or small vertebrate they encounter.​
The biggest hunting parties can
kill up to 500,000 animals per day.​
The biggest hunting parties can
kill up to 500,000 animals per day.​
Some army ants specialize in
hunting and consuming other social insects​
Some army ants specialize in
hunting and consuming other social insects​
like termites, wasps,
and especially other ants.​
like termites, wasps,
and especially other ants.​
Wasps are fierce, and may seem invulnerable,​Wasps are fierce, and may seem invulnerable,​but if a swarm makes
its way to their colonies​
but if a swarm makes
its way to their colonies​
they don’t even stand a chance.​they don’t even stand a chance.​The much bigger and stronger
wasps might kill a few of them,​
The much bigger and stronger
wasps might kill a few of them,​
but they are quickly overwhelmed.​but they are quickly overwhelmed.​Even if their queen survives an attack,​Even if their queen survives an attack,​the army ants steal the colony’s
larvae, and quickly devour them.​
the army ants steal the colony’s
larvae, and quickly devour them.​
There is no recovery from that.​There is no recovery from that.​When army ants discover another
ant colony, they immediately attack.​
When army ants discover another
ant colony, they immediately attack.​
Now, you might think this would
be a more even battle, but it’s not.​
Now, you might think this would
be a more even battle, but it’s not.​
Because army ants act as a social unit,​Because army ants act as a social unit,​they are especially dangerous and effective.​they are especially dangerous and effective.​Most army ants are not
particularly impressive individually,​
Most army ants are not
particularly impressive individually,​
but they can overwhelm their
victims with sheer numbers​
but they can overwhelm their
victims with sheer numbers​
before the victim colony
can mount an effective defense.​
before the victim colony
can mount an effective defense.​
And so, invasions tend
to be won by the attackers​
And so, invasions tend
to be won by the attackers​
and the prey colony
is damaged significantly,​
and the prey colony
is damaged significantly,​
or is exterminated.​or is exterminated.​Interestingly, army ants
don’t fight army ants.​
Interestingly, army ants
don’t fight army ants.​
When two swarms encounter
each other in the wild,​
When two swarms encounter
each other in the wild,​
they either pass through each
other, ignoring the other swarm,​
they either pass through each
other, ignoring the other swarm,​
or both colonies just move away.​or both colonies just move away.​Which makes sense from
an evolutionary standpoint.​
Which makes sense from
an evolutionary standpoint.​
Army ants that fought other army ants​Army ants that fought other army ants​probably eradicated themselves
millions of years ago.​
probably eradicated themselves
millions of years ago.​
Indeed, they’re so deadly,
that other ant species had to specialize​
Indeed, they’re so deadly,
that other ant species had to specialize​
to survive their presence.​to survive their presence.​Many species just panic and evacuate their
nest when they notice army ant scouts​
Many species just panic and evacuate their
nest when they notice army ant scouts​
carrying as many larvae with them as they can,​carrying as many larvae with them as they can,​in order to return and
rebuild after the attack.​
in order to return and
rebuild after the attack.​
Other species have invented living
bunkers, since fighting is so futile.​
Other species have invented living
bunkers, since fighting is so futile.​
They have worker classes
that have big square heads.​
They have worker classes
that have big square heads.​
When army ants show up,​When army ants show up,​they use them to block
the entrances to their nests,​
they use them to block
the entrances to their nests,​
so the attackers have to give up after a while.​so the attackers have to give up after a while.​But, not everybody is afraid of army ants.​But, not everybody is afraid of army ants.​Leafcutter ants form some of
the largest and most complex societies​
Leafcutter ants form some of
the largest and most complex societies​
of any animal other than humans.​of any animal other than humans.​They live in extensive nests,
many meters deep and across,​
They live in extensive nests,
many meters deep and across,​
harboring millions of citizens with a
highly-sophisticated division of labor.​
harboring millions of citizens with a
highly-sophisticated division of labor.​
Like huge soldiers—100 times
more massive than a worker.​
Like huge soldiers—100 times
more massive than a worker.​
Their sole purpose might be to
defend their colonies against army ants.​
Their sole purpose might be to
defend their colonies against army ants.​
They still have a nemesis though.​They still have a nemesis though.​The diet of the army ant​
​species ​​Nomamyrmex esenbekii​
The diet of the army ant​
​species ​​Nomamyrmex esenbekii​
consists mostly of the larvae of other ants.​consists mostly of the larvae of other ants.​Compared to other army ants, they
have a more robust soldier cast.​
Compared to other army ants, they
have a more robust soldier cast.​
So far, they are the only known species that can
successfully attack a mature colony of leafcutters.​
So far, they are the only known species that can
successfully attack a mature colony of leafcutters.​
When they find a leafcutter colony, hundreds
of thousands attack in a long column.​
When they find a leafcutter colony, hundreds
of thousands attack in a long column.​
The moment the leafcutter ants notice the
army ant attack, they go into crisis mode​
The moment the leafcutter ants notice the
army ant attack, they go into crisis mode​
and immediately alert their soldiers, who
very quickly swarm to the site of attack.​
and immediately alert their soldiers, who
very quickly swarm to the site of attack.​
A frontline develops that can be a few
meters wide, and up to a meter deep.​
A frontline develops that can be a few
meters wide, and up to a meter deep.​
The leafcutter soldiers go
head-to-head with the army ants,​
The leafcutter soldiers go
head-to-head with the army ants,​
locking on them, and try
to cut through their heads.​
locking on them, and try
to cut through their heads.​
Smaller leafcutter workers help
by grabbing the enemies.​
Smaller leafcutter workers help
by grabbing the enemies.​
Small teams carry out
attacks behind the frontline,​
Small teams carry out
attacks behind the frontline,​
where they dismember their enemies
by ripping their legs from their bodies.​
where they dismember their enemies
by ripping their legs from their bodies.​
The attackers, meanwhile, try
to swarm their victim soldiers,​
The attackers, meanwhile, try
to swarm their victim soldiers,​
and sting them to death in a mob.​and sting them to death in a mob.​Despite the powerful defense,
and the determined response,​
Despite the powerful defense,
and the determined response,​
the army ants are still superior in numbers.​the army ants are still superior in numbers.​So, without knowing if the battle can be
won, the leafcutters prepare for the worst.​
So, without knowing if the battle can be
won, the leafcutters prepare for the worst.​
Workers rush to create barricades,​Workers rush to create barricades,​and seal off as many entrances to their
nest as possible to secure their brood.​
and seal off as many entrances to their
nest as possible to secure their brood.​
If the leafcutters are not
able to repel the invaders,​
If the leafcutters are not
able to repel the invaders,​
or at least barricade enough
of their entrances in time,​
or at least barricade enough
of their entrances in time,​
the army ants swarm the nest,
overrunning all opposition.​
the army ants swarm the nest,
overrunning all opposition.​
They penetrate deep into the hidden chambers,​They penetrate deep into the hidden chambers,​and steal tens of thousands
of the leafcutters’ brood to eat them.​
and steal tens of thousands
of the leafcutters’ brood to eat them.​
Even if the leafcutter colony
survives, this is a heavy blow.​
Even if the leafcutter colony
survives, this is a heavy blow.​
Regardless who has won the war,
thousands lay slain on the battlefield.​
Regardless who has won the war,
thousands lay slain on the battlefield.​
When the army ants attack, death follows them.​When the army ants attack, death follows them.​But, there are other species that
form much more dangerous ant armies.​
But, there are other species that
form much more dangerous ant armies.​
Species that form supercolonies,
covering thousands of square kilometers​
Species that form supercolonies,
covering thousands of square kilometers​
over multiple continents, engaging
in wars kilometers across.​
over multiple continents, engaging
in wars kilometers across.​
They deserve their own video though.​They deserve their own video though.​No matter the scale, war
is a part of ant existence,​
No matter the scale, war
is a part of ant existence,​
be it between huge colonies or small
groups trying to fend off a raid.​
be it between huge colonies or small
groups trying to fend off a raid.​
In tropical rainforests, but also in the
cracks of the concrete we walk over every day.​
In tropical rainforests, but also in the
cracks of the concrete we walk over every day.​
Humans have decided that war is not a
thing that they want to do a lot anymore.​
Humans have decided that war is not a
thing that they want to do a lot anymore.​
For ants, though, the other ant
will always be the enemy.​
For ants, though, the other ant
will always be the enemy.​
No, some groups just don’t get along.​No, some groups just don’t get along.​If you can’t get enough of ants, we’re
developing Part 2 of the Ant Series​
If you can’t get enough of ants, we’re
developing Part 2 of the Ant Series​
right now with the support of ​​CuriosityStream​.​right now with the support of ​​CuriosityStream​.​CuriosityStream is a subscription streaming
service with thousands of documentaries,​
CuriosityStream is a subscription streaming
service with thousands of documentaries,​
and nonfiction titles.​and nonfiction titles.​kurzgesagt viewers can visit: curiositystream.com/kurzgesagt​kurzgesagt viewers can visit: curiositystream.com/kurzgesagt​to get a free 31-day trial to watch films
like, “Big World in a Small Garden”,​
to get a free 31-day trial to watch films
like, “Big World in a Small Garden”,​
a documentary that takes a close look
at the world of insects around us.​
a documentary that takes a close look
at the world of insects around us.​
Or other documentaries by the likes
of Stephen Hawking, David Attenborough,​
Or other documentaries by the likes
of Stephen Hawking, David Attenborough,​
and many more, all available for offline viewing.​and many more, all available for offline viewing.​Once your trial is over, the
subscription is only $2.99 per month.​
Once your trial is over, the
subscription is only $2.99 per month.​
CuriosityStream was founded by the same
people who started the Discovery Channel​
CuriosityStream was founded by the same
people who started the Discovery Channel​
with documentaries spanning science, nature,
history, technology, and lifestyle.​
with documentaries spanning science, nature,
history, technology, and lifestyle.​
It’s a great way to binge-watch fun videos
while accidentally learning things.​
It’s a great way to binge-watch fun videos
while accidentally learning things.​
Thank you so much to our friends at
CuriosityStream for supporting our ants obsession,​
Thank you so much to our friends at
CuriosityStream for supporting our ants obsession,​
and making ambitious projects like this possible.​and making ambitious projects like this possible.​Stay tuned for Part 2,​Stay tuned for Part 2,​and visit curiositystream.com/kurzgesagt for your free trial.​and visit curiositystream.com/kurzgesagt for your free trial.​​​

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *