Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bone Home

Yesterday evening, while walking along the path of the Presque Isle bog, Steph found a medium-sized bone that was partially embedded in the ground. She uncovered it; the top of the bone was bleached white by the sun, and the other side was stained brown by the dirt. It was about six inches long, and the jury's still out as to what animal it belonged. There were tiny ants crawling all over it...

Ant Colony I

... and it took us both a moment to realize that there was an ant colony inside this bone. The ants, having sensed their home had been disturbed, were evacuating, taking care to retrieve their eggs and young.

Ant Colony II

From what I could see, the set-up inside was amazing. The eggs and pupae were tucked into the calcium cavities of the bone, and the entry/exit to the colony was a large hole (as seen in the photograph above). After we had observed the ants for some time, Steph returned the bone to where she had found it, taking care to put it back in the same position.

How interesting is it that an entire colony of ants calls a rather small bone its home? I've seen spiders build their webs inside the brain cavities of skulls -- and I've heard the same for wasp nests (hopefully I'll never see something like this in-person) -- but I've never seen such a thing with ants. It's pretty incredible that this insect (which is almost always associated with creating complex tunnels in the soil) has used a bone for this purpose: not for food, but for a home.

What other creatures use the remains of animals as a place not to get nourishment, but to live?


  1. That is pretty amazing. What a perfect find for this blog!

    It makes my heart twitch a little that they were evacuating and taking their eggs. I just imagine tiny little ants in a panic. "SAVE THE CHILDREN!"

  2. I hope the ants were able to find their way back to their nest! They were very frantic. Ants do leave scent trails, so they (and their babies) hopefully made it back just fine.