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Fungus-farming “Radiohead ant” found in South America

Sericomyrmex radioheadi: Just an insect trying to get out of the night.

Ana Ješovnik

Researchers from the Smithsonian Institution’s Ant Lab have discovered three new species of silky ant.

Like their more famous relatives, the leafcutter ants, silky ants farm fungus to eat. Unlike the leaf cutters, however, the silky ants do not carry antibiotic bacteria that protect their fungus gardens from microbial attacks.

The researchers speculate that a white crystalline layer on the surface of the ants’ bodies may somehow be related to the silky ants’ antimicrobial defences. They named the ant after the band Radiohead “to acknowledge the conservation efforts of the band members”.

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