A swarm raid is one of nature's great spectacles. In tropical rainforests around the world, army ants march in groups by the thousands to overwhelm large solitary invertebrates, along with nests of termites, wasps, and other ants. They kill and dismember their prey and carry it back to their nest, where it is devoured by their hungry brood. They are the ultimate social hunters, and an excellent way to study collective behavior.
In Army Ants we see how these insects play a crucial role in promoting and sustaining the biodiversity of tropical ecosystems. The ants help keep prey communities in check while also providing nutrition for other animals. Many species depend on army ants for survival, including a multitude of social parasites, swarm-following birds, and flies. And while their hunting behavior, and the rules that govern it, are clearly impressive, army ants display collective behavior in other ways that are no less dazzling. They build living nests, called bivouacs, using their bodies to protect the queen and larvae. The ants can even construct bridges over open space or obstacles by linking to one another using their feet. These incredible feats happen without central coordination. They are the result of local interactions – self-organization that benefits the larger society.
Through observations, stories, and stunning images, Daniel Kronauer brings these fascinating creatures to life. Army ants may be small, but their collective intelligence and impact on their environment are anything but.
Daniel J. C. Kronauer is Stanley S. and Sydney R. Shuman Associate Professor and head of the Laboratory of Social Evolution and Behavior at Rockefeller University. He is the recipient of numerous research awards, and his insect photography was recognized in the 2019 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.