A recently discovered parasitic ant species steals food from colonies of another ant by disguising itself as the host.

Credit: Scott Powell

Scott Powell at George Washington University in Washington DC and his co-workers discovered the parasitic ant, Cephalotes specularis (pictured right), in the Brazilian woodland savannah. C. specularis lives only with its host, the highly aggressive Crematogaster ampla ant (pictured left).

The researchers found that, rather than introduce its brood into the host's nest like other parasitic ants, C. specularis mimics the body posture of the host worker ants to move freely around the host's territory. The deceptive ant follows the host's pheromone trails to locate food, and manages to sneak undetected into 89% of potential host territories.

Am. Nat. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/677927 (2014)