Video footage has revealed an ant behaviour that has never before been documented - a group of ants 'daisy-chaining' their bodies in a series of organised lines to drag a large millipede to their nest.
Belonging to the very large and global Leptogenys genus in the Ponerinae subfamily, the ants seem to be performing a behaviour that has only been recorded in this and a similar video, which we’ve posted below. While explicit descriptions are yet to be published in the scientific literature, Alex Wild, a US-based photographer and research scientist specialising in insects, points to a few possibilities at his blog, Myrmecos:
"I have spent the morning searching the technical literature for mention of this unusual behaviour, and am coming up empty. Some Leptogenys species, including L. diminuta, L. nitida, and L. processionalis, are known to forage in groups and transport prey “cooperatively” (source, source). What is meant by “cooperative” is often vague. Yet I didn’t find any explicit description of workers linking up, mandible to abdomen, to pull together."
Eminent ant expert and ecologist, Christian Peeters from the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, France wrote to Wild to say he’d observed this behaviour four years ago in Cambodia with his colleague Stéphane De Greef. Also belonging to the Leptogenys genus, Peeters’s ants were seen forming lines by locking their mandibles to the preceding ant’s gaster, which is a part of the body that sits between the ant’s first and second segment. Together these 16-mm-long ants were pulling millipedes that were around 130 mm long.
"Back then I reviewed the literature and found no other record of chain behaviour in Ponerinae. No record of millipede predation in Leptogenysm,” Peeters told Wild at Myrmecos. "I started writing a manuscript on this behaviour ... but sadly I have not been able to get further observations. It seems to happen at certain times of the year only."
Here's another video of the behaviour. We reckon that just about anyone would team up to achieve a common goal if they were backed by this soundtrack: