A marvelous spiny ant

From AntWeb, via a tweet from Alex Wild brought to my attention by Matthew Cobb:


Specimen: CASENT0178497
Species: Echinopla melanarctos
Photographer: April Nobile

There’s not a lot of information on this ant save that it’s from Southeast Asia, but one paper on it (reference below; free access) examines the microstructure of the hairs (and notes that the biology of this species and its relatives is almost completely uknown).  What do the hairs do? The authors say that they convey mechanical stimuli to the ant and protect it from being nommed:

We suppose that the whole hair cover may serve as a shield against attacks of other arthropods, especially ants, which are highly common in the habitat of E. melanarctos. The sensory apparatus of the hairs gives exact information about contacts with the surroundings. The lipophilic secretions of the pedestal glands possibly function as lubricants that keep the non-living hair shafts intact, i.e. elastic and waterproof-like sebaceous glands or rump glands in mammals and birds, respectively.

Here’s a scanning-electron microscopic photo of the hairs, which arise from “pedestals” on the cuticle:

Picture 2


Gnatzy, W. and U. Maschwitz. 2006. Pedestal hairs of the ant Echinopla melanarctos (Hymenoptera; Formicidae): morphology and functional aspects. Zoomorphology 125: 57-68.


  1. NewEnglandBob
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I wonder how they make out when encountering something like tree sap.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      Loose the hairs?

    • still learning
      Posted December 14, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      Caught in sap: Definitely a hair-razing experience…

  2. Posted December 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Note that the specific name is “melanarctos,” which translates “black bear.” Fantastic.

    • Posted December 14, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      Wouldn’t “porcupine” be more appropriate than black bear?

  3. gravelinspector
    Posted December 14, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Strange “pedestals” that those hairs come from. That’s not a structure that I’ve seen previously (though most of the arthropods I’ve looked at have been long extinct, but the preservation can be as detailed as in the figured specimens).

  4. Diane G.
    Posted December 15, 2012 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    Defensive spines have certainly risen again and again throughout the biota.

  5. marksolock
    Posted December 15, 2012 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  6. marycanada FCD
    Posted December 15, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink


  7. Posted December 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Even with all this he is still ‘spineless’. … Sorry..

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  1. […] ◊ Why Evolution is True starts a fly collection with The panoply of nature: more bizarre flies, and then follows it up with a Marvelous Spiny Ant. […]

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