Life as we know it has taken some strange courses. Of all the things an animal could do with its time, pretending to be an ant is apparently pretty popular. According to a review article in the latest Current Biology, there are probably over 2000 abhorrent species of myrmecomorphs (ant impersonators), including spiders, caterpillars, mites, beetles, and other types of arthropod biodiversity I’m not familiar with, that have come to resemble ants in some form or another.
It’s interesting how and why different life forms have come to p-ant-omime. For example, in the picture above, (Maderspacher & Stensmyr 2011, Fig. 3) on the left side is the crab spider (Aphantochilus rogersi) mimicking ant species in the genus Cephalotes – which the spider comes upon unawares and then feeds upon (getting pwned on the right side of the photo). If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then mimicry must be the most malevolent means of creepy.
Or here’s a treehopper (Cyphonia clavata, an insect and not a spider like above) that doesn’t just disguise itself as an ant, but rather has a whole ant-shaped appendage bursting from its back in a disgusting perversion of alien birth in the Alien series (Maderspacher & Stensmyr 2011, Fig. 1). It is quite remarkable that a surprisingly common yearning to be perceived as an ant has resulted in convergent evolution of an ant-ish figure in myriad of nature’s more disgusting creations, not to mention in ants themselves.
Florian Maderspacher & Marcus Stensmyr (2011). Myrmecomorphomania Current Biology, 21 (9) : R291-293. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.04.006