Following the Birds that Follow the Ants
Photo: Dan Lebbin
Author: Pat Leonard

DNA analysis sheds light on evolution of this unique behavior

When thousands of army ants go on the march, Central and South American rainforests erupt with hordes of other insects and small creatures scurrying to get out of the way. Many species of birds have learned that following the marauding ants means a feast, and over millions of years of evolution some species have lost their ability to find food any other way.

Using modern genetic techniques, a new study traces the evolution of army-ant-following behavior in the typical antbirds and finds it has been around for up to six million years. The behavior has become more and …

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