But first: that strange head. The various species of Cephalotes have a range of head shapes. Some are almost perfectly circular, like a manhole cover. These ants typically establish their colonies in dead branches of living trees, where wood-boring beetles have conveniently left cavities. “The size of the soldier head is perfectly matched to the size of the beetles that came out of the tree,” said tropical ecologist Stephen Yanoviak of the University of Louisville. The Cephalotes move in, and at any given time a soldier’s head serves as a door to keep the ants’ many enemies at bay.
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Really, we could have avoided all that heartache in the first place if only we were a family of Cephalotes ants, whose soldiers, no joke, use their heads as doors to seal their colonies from intruders.
With a range stretching from Argentina all the way up into the southern U.S., this incredible genus of ants has also mastered the art of rainforest skydiving, leaping from the canopy to avoid predators, only to steer themselves mid-flight right back onto the trunk of their home tree. And they do it with remarkable agility.
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