Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ant Buffet

For a moment the corpse moves and thinking it’s still alive, I shift backward from my seat on the ground. The insect that is being consumed by an army of ants has long since expired, but the communal efforts of the tiny insects to break the hopper into pieces have caused it to list. I, with my macabre fascination with the grisly side of nature have spun the scene into an imaginary Zombietown of arthropods. In fact it’s a simple scavenge site and underneath the roiling cloak of ants is a spiny-legged, flightless Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera). Chances are the lack of useful wings led to death by wheel – and its present state.

How the mouse met its end is a mystery, as is the curious rubble pile surrounding it. Based on the reddish pelage on top and the white below I would say this is a Cotton Deermouse (Peromyscus gossypinus) that once lived in the swamps of the Picayune State Forest east of Naples, FL.

Considering the masses of formic foes piled upon the remains of the snake, you’d think it would be hard to identify the creature beneath. The telltale marking is a yellow band around the neck which makes it easy to identify as a Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus). I often find this secretive snake under logs or debris on the ground. When threatened they will expose their brightly colored dorsal side to warn would be predators away.

From a distance, the ant traffic was so heavy that it could have been mistaken for a slender snake. The sinuous band of ants ended at a well-picked apart Pig Frog (Lithobates (Rana) grylio). Similar in size and shape to the American Bullfrog (Lithobates (Rana) catesbeiana), only the Pig Frog is found in South Florida as this one was. Both species are sought after for their edible legs. This one kept them but little good that did.
Death is unkind. I certainly have sympathy for all of the creatures that meet with an untimely end, especially those that are victims of human carelessness. In the end, their deaths are not in vain. A colony of ants will feast. 

1 comment:

  1. Well done as always - we need these smaller critters to do the clean up!