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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.”