Eye opener

Focus-Science and Technology - - CONTENTS - DANUM VAL­LEY, BOR­NEO

In­cred­i­ble im­ages from around the world.

As part of the rain­for­est’s vast re­cy­cling sys­tem, for­ag­ing ants will soon find any car­casses and dis­man­tle them at speed. Pho­tog­ra­pher Nick Gar­butt found this newly de­ceased taran­tula on the for­est floor in Bor­neo’s Danum Val­ley, laid it on a piece of white pa­per, and took these pho­tos over the course of four hours.

When a for­ag­ing ant finds a dead an­i­mal, she will lay a pheromone trail to guide her nest­mates back to the car­cass. When the ants ar­rive, they’ll cut off scraps with their jaws and carry them back to their nest.

Ants are re­spon­si­ble for re­mov­ing more than half the food re­sources and de­cay­ing mat­ter from the rain­for­est floor, help­ing to keep the ecosys­tem healthy. “When we think of scav­engers we tend to think about large, dead an­i­mals be­ing pro­cessed by hye­nas, jack­als and vul­tures,” says en­to­mol­o­gist Prof Adam Hart. “But most of the an­i­mal biomass in an ecosys­tem is in smaller an­i­mals, and ants play a cru­cial role in re­cy­cling these crea­tures.”

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