Colonies of turtle ants are often attacked by competing species, and the ants understand enough military strategy to decide when certain nests should be abandoned
Colonies of turtle ants behave as if they are playing a game of Risk. They spread out their forces to control more resources, but also retreat if their position is not defensible.
“They’re sensitive to changes in the environment. They can change the allocation of their defenses in response to that,” says Matina Donaldson-Matasci at Harvey Mudd College in California.
Cephalotes rohweri is a species of turtle ant that lives in trees in the Sonoran Desert of Mexico and Arizona. Each colony can hold a few hundred ants, spread out over several nests in tree cavities.
The nests are defended by soldiers, which are bigger than workers and have bumpy heads that they use to block the nest entrance. But there aren’t always enough soldiers to go around. So Donaldson-Matasci and her colleagues wanted to see how the ants allocate their soldiers.
They tracked wild