Pirate Ant: New Species of Ant Discovered in Philippines Has Markings Resembling Eye Patch

Posted on May 21, 2013

Scientists have discovered a new enigmatic species of ant in the Philippines. Cardiocondyla pirata has a bizarre pigmentation pattern that has no equivalent worldwide. The female castes in the ant colonies have a distinctive dark stripe across the eyes that resembles a pirate eye patch, which is the what inspired the name.

The researchers theorize that the pirate-like coloration pattern could serve as a tool to distract and confuse the enemy. The ants have a rather translucent body. Predators may think the anterior and posterior body parts of the ants are two species. The dark patch could also serve as a cue for mating.

Sabine Frohschammer, PhD student Universitat Regensburg, said in a statement, "On a collection trip to the Philippines we looked for different species of the genus Cardiocondyla that is known for its astonishing morphological and behavioral diversity of male ants. Beside already know species we also detected a until then undiscovered species in the cleavage of big stones in a shady streambed. Due to the darkness of the rainforest and the translucent body parts of the tiny ants they were nearly invisible. Under bright light and a magnifier we detected the nice stripe across the eyes and therefore always referred to these species as 'the pirates.'"

The research was published here in Zookeys.

More from Science Space & Robots