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Leaf-cutter Ants (63) More files... by Dr. Mark W. Moffett
With razor-sharp mandibles, leaf-cutter ants harvest rainforest leaves and thus begin their curious agricultural cycle. Known as the gardeners of the ant world, these tiny creatures have evolved a unique way of growing their own food. Each with a specific task, different members of the colony harvest the leaves, mulch them, and tend and harvest the fungus garden which subsequently sprouts from the decaying vegetation. Mark Moffett takes us into this miniature world for an intimate view of the lives of the smallest farmers in the world. Text by Dr. Mark W. Moffet.
Leafcutter Ant (Atta sexdens) workers retrieve leaves  -  Mark Moffett
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00111529 Leafcutter Ant (Atta sexdens) workers retrieve leaves© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta laevigata) worker cutting Papaya leaf  -  Mark Moffett
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00111432 Leafcutter Ant (Atta laevigata) worker cutting Papaya leaf© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) cutting leaf  -  Mark Moffett
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00111431 Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) cutting leaf© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) worker cutting papaya leaf, Guadeloupe, Caribbean
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00111433 Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) worker cutting papaya leaf, Guadeloupe, Caribbean© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) worker cutting Papaya leaf, Honduras  -  Mark Moffett
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00111435 Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) worker cutting Papaya leaf, Honduras© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) worker cutting Papaya leaf, Guadaloupe  -  Mark Moffett
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00111434 Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) worker cutting Papaya leaf, Guadaloupe© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves to nest, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111436 Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves to nest, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves to nest, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111437 Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves to nest, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves to nest, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111442 Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves to nest, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta sp) with their jaws full, ants carrying leaves must rely on others for defense against attack, a smaller ants ride on the leaf driving away attackers, Salto Morato Reserve, Atlant...  -  Mark Moffett
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00750630 Leafcutter Ant (Atta sp) with their jaws full, ants carrying leaves must rely on others for defense against attack, a smaller ants ride on the leaf driving away attackers, Salto Morato Reserve, Atlant...© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves to nest, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111441 Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves to nest, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves to nest, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111440 Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves to nest, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves to nest, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111439 Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves to nest, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves back to nest, Barro Colorado Island, Panama
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00091280 Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves back to nest, Barro Colorado Island, Panama© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta sp) group carrying leaves back to nest, Barro Colorado Island, Panama  -  Mark Moffett
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00091281 Leafcutter Ant (Atta sp) group carrying leaves back to nest, Barro Colorado Island, Panama© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta sp) group group carrying leaves back to nest, Barro Colorado Island, Panama  -  Mark Moffett
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00091282 Leafcutter Ant (Atta sp) group group carrying leaves back to nest, Barro Colorado Island, Panama© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) worker carries leaf with its jaws full, workers carrying leaves must rely on a special cast of smaller ants riding on the leaves to defend against Phorid fly (Phoridae...  -  Mark Moffett
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00111506 Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) worker carries leaf with its jaws full, workers carrying leaves must rely on a special cast of smaller ants riding on the leaves to defend against Phorid fly (Phoridae...© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves, along trunk trail, back to nest, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111445 Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers carrying leaves, along trunk trail, back to nest, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) retrieving artificial bait that kills their fungus gardens, bait is used by farmers to control this non-native pest, Guadaloupe  -  Mark Moffett
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00111451 Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) retrieving artificial bait that kills their fungus gardens, bait is used by farmers to control this non-native pest, Guadaloupe© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta vollenveideri) nests dot the landscape, lines radiating from the nest are the ants' trunk trails, Paraguay  -  Mark Moffett
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00111454 Leafcutter Ant (Atta vollenveideri) nests dot the landscape, lines radiating from the nest are the ants' trunk trails, Paraguay© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta vollenveideri) decaying nests which play an important ecological role since palms and mesquites sprout from the fertile soil created by the nests, Paraguay  -  Mark Moffett
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00111453 Leafcutter Ant (Atta vollenveideri) decaying nests which play an important ecological role since palms and mesquites sprout from the fertile soil created by the nests, Paraguay© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta laevigata) nest excavated by researchers, Batucatu, Brazil  -  Mark Moffett
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00111459 Leafcutter Ant (Atta laevigata) nest excavated by researchers, Batucatu, Brazil© Mark Moffett
Fungus Gardening Ant (Cyphomyrmex rimosus) fungus garden held by researcher, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111516 Fungus Gardening Ant (Cyphomyrmex rimosus) fungus garden held by researcher, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta columbica) fungus garden chamber tended to by workers, central Paraguay  -  Mark Moffett
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00111468 Leafcutter Ant (Atta columbica) fungus garden chamber tended to by workers, central Paraguay© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Trachymyrmex sp) nest chamber, about 10cm wide, contains two fungus gardens hanging like fragile stalactites, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111523 Leafcutter Ant (Trachymyrmex sp) nest chamber, about 10cm wide, contains two fungus gardens hanging like fragile stalactites, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) in fungus garden, Guadaloupe  -  Mark Moffett
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00111470 Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) in fungus garden, Guadaloupe© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) in fungus garden, Guadaloupe  -  Mark Moffett
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00111469 Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex octospinosus) in fungus garden, Guadaloupe© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Apterostigma sp) in fungus garden, these ants use insect droppings and corpses as a base for their fungus gardens which often grown in sheets, Belize  -  Mark Moffett
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00111520 Leafcutter Ant (Apterostigma sp) in fungus garden, these ants use insect droppings and corpses as a base for their fungus gardens which often grown in sheets, Belize© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Apterostigma sp,) in fungus garden, these ants use insect droppings and corpses as a base for their fungus gardens which often grown in sheets, Belize  -  Mark Moffett
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00111519 Leafcutter Ant (Apterostigma sp,) in fungus garden, these ants use insect droppings and corpses as a base for their fungus gardens which often grown in sheets, Belize© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta sexdens) small worker carrying fungus around, planting it wherever there is a new space in the garden, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111471 Leafcutter Ant (Atta sexdens) small worker carrying fungus around, planting it wherever there is a new space in the garden, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Trachymyrmex sp) queen and workers in nest chamber, about 10 centimeters wide, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111525 Leafcutter Ant (Trachymyrmex sp) queen and workers in nest chamber, about 10 centimeters wide, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Fungus Gardening Ant (Cyphomyrmex sp) fungus garden grows upon insect droppings, Kaw Mountains, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111515 Fungus Gardening Ant (Cyphomyrmex sp) fungus garden grows upon insect droppings, Kaw Mountains, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta sexdens) comes in a variety of worker sizes, each one has a special function in the society, here one of the smallest workers carries fungus around, planting wherever there is a n...  -  Mark Moffett
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00111472 Leafcutter Ant (Atta sexdens) comes in a variety of worker sizes, each one has a special function in the society, here one of the smallest workers carries fungus around, planting wherever there is a n...© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Apterostigma sp,) in fungus garden, these ants use insect droppings and corpses as a base for their fungus gardens which often grown in sheets, Belize  -  Mark Moffett
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00111518 Leafcutter Ant (Apterostigma sp,) in fungus garden, these ants use insect droppings and corpses as a base for their fungus gardens which often grown in sheets, Belize© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta capiguara) fungus garden showing fungal tufts, or gongylidia, and the pores that ants use as walkways to the interior, Brazil  -  Mark Moffett
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00111478 Leafcutter Ant (Atta capiguara) fungus garden showing fungal tufts, or gongylidia, and the pores that ants use as walkways to the interior, Brazil© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta sp) nest entrance, some of the grass-cutting species, including French Guiana's Atta species, have nest entrances hatched with bits of grass, worker at bottom right carrying grass...  -  Mark Moffett
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00111475 Leafcutter Ant (Atta sp) nest entrance, some of the grass-cutting species, including French Guiana's Atta species, have nest entrances hatched with bits of grass, worker at bottom right carrying grass...© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta capiguara) fungus garden showing fungal tufts, or gongylidia, and the pores that ants use as walkways to the interior, Brazil  -  Mark Moffett
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00111477 Leafcutter Ant (Atta capiguara) fungus garden showing fungal tufts, or gongylidia, and the pores that ants use as walkways to the interior, Brazil© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex sp) workers stop on the trail to identify each other with antenna strokes, batteries of antennal receptors instantly inform each of them that the other ant is a member of th...  -  Mark Moffett
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00111481 Leafcutter Ant (Acromyrmex sp) workers stop on the trail to identify each other with antenna strokes, batteries of antennal receptors instantly inform each of them that the other ant is a member of th...© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta laevigata) pair from the same colony stop to groom each other, Guadaloupe  -  Mark Moffett
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00111482 Leafcutter Ant (Atta laevigata) pair from the same colony stop to groom each other, Guadaloupe© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta laevigata) ants identify each other with antenna strokes and stop to groom each other, Guadaloupe  -  Mark Moffett
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00111483 Leafcutter Ant (Atta laevigata) ants identify each other with antenna strokes and stop to groom each other, Guadaloupe© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) worker returns from battle carrying the corpse of a nest-mate, in this case a soldier much larger than herself, Belize  -  Mark Moffett
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00111485 Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) worker returns from battle carrying the corpse of a nest-mate, in this case a soldier much larger than herself, Belize© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta sexdens) soldier, close-up, the largest worker in many leafcutter colonies specialize in defense, their enlarged heads contain massive adductor muscles to work their powerful jaws...  -  Mark Moffett
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00111487 Leafcutter Ant (Atta sexdens) soldier, close-up, the largest worker in many leafcutter colonies specialize in defense, their enlarged heads contain massive adductor muscles to work their powerful jaws...© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta laevigata) soldier bites photographer, carving through his skin in just the same way medium-sized workers bite leaves, near Sao Paulo, Brazil  -  Mark Moffett
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00111488 Leafcutter Ant (Atta laevigata) soldier bites photographer, carving through his skin in just the same way medium-sized workers bite leaves, near Sao Paulo, Brazil© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) soldiers attack photographer's foot, soldiers specialize in vertebrate defense, rarely leaving the nest unless it is disturbed, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111490 Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) soldiers attack photographer's foot, soldiers specialize in vertebrate defense, rarely leaving the nest unless it is disturbed, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) soldiers attack photographer's foot, soldiers specialize in vertebrate defense, rarely leaving the nest unless it is disturbed, French Guiana  -  Mark Moffett
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00111489 Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) soldiers attack photographer's foot, soldiers specialize in vertebrate defense, rarely leaving the nest unless it is disturbed, French Guiana© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) if workers sense a Phorid fly attack has occurred, they gather around the affected ant and groom it vigorously to remove egg, Belize  -  Mark Moffett
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00111499 Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) if workers sense a Phorid fly attack has occurred, they gather around the affected ant and groom it vigorously to remove egg, Belize© Mark Moffett
Leafcutter Ant (Atta columbica) workers carrying leaves and Millipede follows their trail near Caaguazu, Brazil  -  Mark Moffett
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00111493 Leafcutter Ant (Atta columbica) workers carrying leaves and Millipede follows their trail near Caaguazu, Brazil© Mark Moffett
Along Leafcutter trails, a minute Phorid fly waits to pounce on an ant, the fly will lay its egg on an ant as it grows, the hatching maggot will consume the ant, Belize  -  Mark Moffett
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00111496 Along Leafcutter trails, a minute Phorid fly waits to pounce on an ant, the fly will lay its egg on an ant as it grows, the hatching maggot will consume the ant, Belize© Mark Moffett
Phorid fly attacks leaf carrying Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) the fly will lay an egg from which a parasitizing maggot will hatch, Belize  -  Mark Moffett
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00111497 Phorid fly attacks leaf carrying Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) the fly will lay an egg from which a parasitizing maggot will hatch, Belize© Mark Moffett
Phorid fly lays egg on head of Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers, as the egg hatches the maggot will consume the ant, Belize  -  Mark Moffett
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00111498 Phorid fly lays egg on head of Leafcutter Ant (Atta cephalotes) workers, as the egg hatches the maggot will consume the ant, Belize© Mark Moffett
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