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Meat Ant

There are about 60 species of Meat Ant in Australia.  They belong to the family Formicidae, Subfamily DolichoderinaeOne of the species is Iridomyrmex purpureus.  This species is found in the Brisbane area, but there are Meat Ants of various species found in all parts of Australia.

Diet

Despite their name, Meat Ants are omnivores, eating both animal and vegetable foods.  They are used in the outback for the disposal of dead animals.  A farmer who wants to get rid of a dead animal knows he only has to put it on a Meat Ant nest.

The Meat Ants are good eaters of carrion.  They are also predators, and will catch and kill insects and other small animals.

Non Stinging

Many Ants have stings that are certainly nasty and can be dangerous.  The Meat Ant does not sting.  They do produce defensive secretions, and they have a fearsome bite for their size.

Nests

Meat Ants live underground.  They dig out their nests.  A Meat Ant nest can be big, having hundreds of entrances and extending over thousands of square Metres.

Other ant species tend to be depressed in number in the area of a Meat Ant nest.

Symbiosis

Meat Ants have formed mutually beneficial relationships with a number of insects including some aphids, scale insects and caterpillars.  They provide some protection to their symbiotes from predators and get sugary secretions from them.

Cane Toads

Cane Toads are poisonous to many native Australian predators, but the Meat Ant does not appear to be affected by their poison.

Although large Cane Toads are not so likely to fall victim to the meat ants, the little toads newly emerged from the water are very vulnerable.   Meat Ants kill them in large numbers.

Sources

http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_ants/MeatAnts.htm

http://australianmuseum.net.au/Meat-Ant

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/meat-ant-the-new-weapon-against-cane-toads-20090330-9h1d.html

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20101902-20628.html

http://cms.jcu.edu.au/discovernature/misc/JCUPRD_025491

http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/aussie-meat-ant-feasts-on-cane-toad-invaders/story-e6freon6-1225698866836

http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2010/s2823045.htm

http://www.news.com.au/travel/holiday-ideas/town-plans-to-build-big-meat-ant/story-e6frfqdi-1225784092439

http://www.usyd.edu.au/news/84.html?newsstoryid=3207

http://www.ozanimals.com/Insect/Meat-Ant/Iridomyrmex/sp.html

http://www.southbank.qm.qld.gov.au/en/Find+out+about/Animals+of+Queensland/Insects/Ants/Common+species/Southern+Meat+Ant

http://www.insectvista.com/Meat_Ants.html

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Meat Ant
Photo by Vicky Nunn