Being in Central America I have seen some amazing animals: monkeys, slots, all kinds of birds in a big variety of colours, including my favorite hummingbird. But one of the coolest animals I’ve seen, was one of the smallest: leaf-cutter ants. On some of the hikes I did – like the volcano climbing on Ometepe – I came across them a few times. They were pretty hard to miss: big colonies walking over the path for meters and meters, carrying leafs on their back.
One of the hikes I did was with Claudia, a Dutch girl. She showed me how strong the ants were, by picking one up, holding it on his rear legs and picking a little branche up as well. The ant grabbed the branch ant was holding on to it, while hanging upside down with his legs between Claudia’s fingers. Leafs, branches; no problem for the little animal, because it can carry up to 50 times it’s own bodyweight.
The ants bring the leafs to their nest to let them ‘rot’. Their nests are actually underground fungus farms. The ants feed on the fungus that grows on the leafs. The ants are the major forest herbivores in Central America and consume more plant matter than all the vertebrate herbivores together. That sounds like ‘a lot’, but one nest can be home to many millions of ants.