ECOLOGISTS RECENTLY came out with a study describing how a species of butterfly tricks the red ant into caring for its larvae. The caterpillar has figured out how to mimic the smell of the ants and the sound of the queen ant, so the caterpillar is soon invited into the nest and treated like royalty. The worker ants feed the caterpillar and respond to its every request, including at times even feeding it their young. Eventually the caterpillar grows to 100 times its original size before forming a chrysalis, which also smells and sounds like the ants. Slowly this intruder has been depleting, literally devouring, the red ant population, all through the clever devices of deception.

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March 30, 2009

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