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


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]

Thursday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Guitar Kits, Memory-Foam Pillows, and Smartwatches

As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 3. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

3D Map Shows the Milky Way Galaxy in Unprecedented Detail


It's our galactic home, but the Milky Way contains many mysteries scientists are working to unravel. Now, as The Guardian reports, astronomers at the European Space Agency have built a 3D map that provides the most detailed look at our galaxy yet.

The data displayed in the graphic below has been seven years in the making. In 2013, the ESA launched its Gaia observatory from Kourou in French Guiana. Since then, two high-powered telescopes aboard the spacecraft have been sweeping the skies, recording the locations, movements, and changes in brightness of more than a billion stars in the Milky Way and beyond.

Using Gaia's findings, astronomers put together a 3D map that allows scientists to study the galaxy in greater depth than ever before. The data has made it possible to measure the acceleration of the solar system. By comparing the solar system's movement to that of more remote celestial objects, researchers have determined that the solar system is slowly falling toward the center of the galaxy at an acceleration of 7 millimeters per second per year, The Guardian reports. Additionally, the map reveals how matter is distributed throughout the Milky Way. With this information, scientists should be able to get an estimate of the galaxy's mass.

Gaia's observations may also hold clues to the Milky Way's past and future. The data holds remnants of the 10-billion-year-old disc that made up the edge of the star system. By comparing it to the shape of the Milky Way today, astronomers have determined that the disc will continue to expand as new stars are created.

The Gaia observatory was launched with the mission of gathering an updated star census. The previous census was conducted in 1957, and Gaia's new data reaches four times farther and accounts for 100 times more stars.

[h/t The Guardian]