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Watch an Army of Ants Use Teamwork to Take Down a Millipede

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Bigger isn’t always better, even in nature’s food chain. Take, for example, the video below, which features a group of tropical ants making a meal out of a millipede. Recorded by scientists in Cambodia and first reported by WIRED, the footage captures the tiny insects as they gang up on the arthropod and band together to paralyze it. Then, the victorious ants link together and form a long, rope-like chain with their bodies to carry the millipede off to its presumed end.

The ants belong to the genus Leptogenys, and they're a type of "swarm raider," according to an article published in the journal Insectes Sociaux, the journal of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) [PDF]. Leptogenys ants are unique because they hunt millipedes and the occasional earthworm, using their intricate chains to drag away stunned prey weighing up to nearly .60 ounces. A Leptogenys chain can consist of anywhere from two to 52 ants.

In the video below, so many critters participate in the predatory act that their linked formation actually splits into sub-chains, as other insects crowd along the millipede’s sides. Scientists think these stragglers might actually be helping their peers by pushing, pulling, or lifting the millipede.

While impressive, Leptogenys ants are by no means the only animals whose predatory or defensive abilities far exceed their size. For example, larvae of the Epomis ground beetle consume frogs and toads. Honey badgers can fend off packs of lions. And a type of spider wasp called the tarantula hawk will stun a tarantula with its sting then drag it off to a burrow and lay an egg inside it. Nature is filled with tiny surprises, even if they are occasionally brutal ones.

[h/t WIRED]

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science
The Prehistoric Bacteria That Helped Create Our Cells Billions of Years Ago
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We owe the existence of our cells—the very building blocks of life—to a chance relationship between bacteria that occurred more than 2 billion years ago. Flash back to Bio 101, and you might remember that humans, plants, and animals have complex eukaryotic cells, with nucleus-bound DNA, instead of single-celled prokaryotic cells. These contain specialized organelles such as the mitochondria—the cell’s powerhouse—and the chloroplast, which converts sunlight into sugar in plants.

Mitochondria and chloroplasts both look and behave a lot like bacteria, and they also share similar genes. This isn’t a coincidence: Scientists believe these specialized cell subunits are descendants of free-living prehistoric bacteria that somehow merged together to form one. Over time, they became part of our basic biological units—and you can learn how by watching PBS Eons’s latest video below.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Buckingham Palace Was Built With Jurassic Fossils, Scientists Find
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The UK's Buckingham Palace is a vestige from another era, and not just because it was built in the early 18th century. According to a new study, the limestone used to construct it is filled with the fossilized remains of microbes from the Jurassic period of 200 million years ago, as The Telegraph reports.

The palace is made of oolitic limestone, which consists of individual balls of carbonate sediment called ooids. The material is strong but lightweight, and is found worldwide. Jurassic oolite has been used to construct numerous famous buildings, from those in the British city of Bath to the Empire State Building and the Pentagon.

A new study from Australian National University published in Scientific Reports found that the spherical ooids in Buckingham Palace's walls are made up of layers and layers of mineralized microbes. Inspired by a mathematical model from the 1970s for predicting the growth of brain tumors, the researchers created a model that explains how ooids are created and predicts the factors that limit their ultimate size.

A hand holding a chunk of oolite limestone
Australian National University

They found that the mineralization of the microbes forms the central core of the ooid, and the layers of sediment that gather around that core feed those microbes until the nutrients can no longer reach the core from the outermost layer.

This contrasts with previous research on how ooids form, which hypothesized that they are the result of sediment gathered from rolling on the ocean floor. It also reshapes how we think about the buildings made out of oolitic limestone from this period. Next time you look up at the Empire State Building or Buckingham Palace, thank the ancient microbes.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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