Polyrhachis lamellidens



How does it acquire its food?

The Polyrhachis lamellidens is an omnivore, which means that it consumes both plants and animals.  The ant first uses the olfactory receptors on the antennae to locate any possible food sources.  Once the ant has located its food it will use its specialized mouth parts to clamp on to the organism.  The mandibles of the ant act in a similar way as the human mouth, but instead of chewing their food ants use their mandibles to squeeze their prey.  The ant is able to swallow any of the juice that arises with the help of the hypopharynx, which acts much like a human tongue.


Does it have to overcome cold temperatures?

The Polyrhachis lamellidens has to survive cold temperatures during the winter without the luxary of flying to a warmer climate like the monarch butterfly. The Polyrhachis lamellidens is cold blooded so its body is unable to heat itself on its own.  This means that the survival of these ants is dependent on the production of a very important chemical known as glycerol.  This chemical acts as an “anti-freeze” and allows the ants to make it through the winter without freezing to death.  The Polyrhachis lamellidens also hibernate in their nests to help survive the winter.  When both glycerol production and hibernation are used in harmony with one another, these ants are more than capable of surviving a brutally cold winter.

- Click here to see several human uses of glycerol.


Does it serve as a host for other organisms?

The Polyrhachis lamellidens and the bacterial mutualist Blochmannia are endosymbiotants of one another.  These symbiotants are obligate mutualists, which means that both organisms must have a symbiotic relationship with one another in order to survive.  The bacteria live in specailized cells in the ant called bacteriocytes.  The Blochmannia are bennefitted by living in the ant, because they are given a home where they can survive and reproduce.  The bacteria are vital to the Polyrhachis lamellidens survival,  because they synthesize important nutrients that the ants need to survive.


What does it eat?   

The Polyrhachis lamellidens consumes both autotrophs and heterotrophs for nutrient uptake.  As a primary source of nitrogen uptake the ant ingests plants and insect exudates.  The main carbohydrate source for the ant comes from mealybugs, aphids, and psyllids.  It is most common to find these ants feeding on leaves of plants and bodies of dead insects.  Click here to see a Polyrhachis lamellidens colony feeding on the body of a dead animal.



How does it transport ingested food and water?

The digestive system is made up of a long straight tube that runs from the mouth to the anus.  The tube is broken up into three sections called the fore gut, mid gut, and hind guy.  Each section possesses different organs and performs different functions involved with digestion.  The digestive process begins when the mandibles squeeze the juices from the food and the nutrients travel down the fore gut.  The fore gut most simply acts as an esophagus until it reaches an organ called the crop.  The crop is one of the two stomachs that this ant possesses (more on this further down page).  The mid gut of the ant possesses the second stomach, which is used solely for food storage.  The nutrients then move to the hind gut where the intestines and rectum break down the food.  The digested material is then expelled through the anus.


Does it have a circulatory system?

It possesses and open circulatory system, which is significantly different from the closed circulatory system that is seen in humans.  In a closed circulatory system the blood is always circulated in vessels, but in an open system the hemolymph (insect version of blood) spends much of its time flowing freely within the body cavities of the ant.  The major structural component of its circulatory system is called a dorsal vessel.  This structure collects hemolymph and it is conducted foreword with the help of the tubular heart.  After the hemolymph “bathes” the organs, it percolates back through the body until it re-enters the tubular heart structure. 

The photo pictured above of a female worker ant was taken by Benoit Guenard.
(This image cannot be found online)


How does it store its food?

When ants take in their food it enters one of two stomachs for storage.  The first stomach is called the crop, and it is used as a “social stomach.”  Ants will regurgitate the contents of this stomach as a way to feed other members of their colony.  The second stomach is located in the mid gut region, and it is used solely as a food storage center for that organism.

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