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Neighborhood Science: Clash of the Myrmidons
Wednesday, December 04, 2019, 07:30pm - 08:30pm

Tristan Kubik (Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Graduate Program)

“Clash of the Myrmidons”

The Amazon rainforest is home to two unexpected titans. Leafcutter ants are peaceful, sedentary farmers responsible for processing huge volumes of tropical vegetation. They use their foraging material to cultivate obligate, fungal nurseries that cradle precious brood deep within their subterranean fortresses. Few organisms are courageous or capable enough to threaten mature leafcutter colonies, but the tank army ant is one of them. Tank army ants are nomadic, subterranean ant-killing machines. Their colonies can reach as many as several million and their hunger for leafcutters is insatiable. They flush out and overwhelm kilograms of prey every day with their numbers, mandibles, and venomous stings. And yet, leafcutter nests are not without defenses. Leafcutter colonies rapidly mount impressive responses to the alarming presence of tank army ant scouts including specialized soldiers, construction of barricades, and air-tight linear battlefronts. These two large, complex, derived societies clash in epic battles akin to the wars waged long ago by the Greeks and Romans with heroes just as notable as Hercules and Achilles. Such examples of social conflict are of great interest to systems science and parallels can be drawn to instances of immune systems vs disease, competing economies, and even human warfare. Join me for a night of bravery, sacrifice, and storytelling as I share my passion and knowledge about this riveting rivalry!

Q&A will follow the talk.

This event is held outside, so please dress for the weather and bring a chair or blankets to sit on.


Neighborhood Science, an offshoot of Science Under the Stars, presents family-friendly talks at Austin Public Library branches across Austin.

Location: Howson Branch Library, 2500 Exposition Blvd, Austin, Texas 78703