#2. Acacia Tree (How to Make Your Own Defending Army)
For decades, scientists thought that the acacia tree had a beautiful and beneficial partnership with a certain species of guard ant: The ants get to eat the sugary plant nectar and live in special hollowed-out thorns that provide safety, and in turn, they defend their kindly plant host from predators. But recently, researchers found that's not the whole story -- the nectar the plant produces isn't just sweet, it's like a drug that turns ants into an army of desperate addicts. And that's not all the acacia tree produces: It also secretes the single most effective ant repellent in the region. By providing or withholding one or the other substance, the acacia tree actually steers the ants around -- toward areas that need defending, or away from tender flowers during pollinating season -- with a combination of drug cocktails and ant-crack.
"Wanna buy a dimebag?"
That's right: This tree has specific wants and needs, and it somehow communicates those to its ant-addict commandos. If you're a plant competing for sunlight, the ants cut off your leaves; if you're a stem-boring beetle, get ready for an ant battle.
This makes the junkie flinging poop at a SWAT team look kind of lazy.
Sometimes even giraffes come for the acacia leaves. But the immense, ridiculous size difference is not enough to deter the ant hordes: If that giraffe steps to the wrong tree, the zombie ants attack, stinging and biting its face until it is forced to flee. As desperate as you think human addiction might be, ant addiction is a whole other bag (not many crackheads would happily fistfight something 10 times the size of Godzilla for another rock).
"Say hello to my even littler friend."
#1. Myrmeconema Neotropicum (Berry-Imitating-Zombie-Ant-Creating Roundworms)
There's a species of badass "gliding" ants known as Cephalotes atratus that leap from trees and actually parachute down in controlled falls. These sweet-ass paratrooper ants, unfortunately, survive largely on bird feces ... presumably because they haven't read this article on the anternet yet (that was for you, ants with terrible taste in jokes). To the surprise of nobody, the ants are frequently infested with a parasitic roundworm called Myrmeconema neotropicum.
Otherwise known as "the mother of all fire holes."
The roundworms eventually need to get all up inside a bird to complete their life cycle, which means, as you could have probably guessed, that some terrifying shit is about to go down in Antworld. But first, the roundworms have a problem: They can't just steer these ants in front of predators -- the ants don't like being devoured by birds (go figure) and so have evolved a number of chemical defenses to keep things from ingesting them. Long story short: They smell and taste horrible.
So the roundworm geniuses at the Polytechnic Institute of Parasitic Dickholes came up with a brilliant plan to get around those defenses: First, they infest the ant's, ah, rear parts, making it swell and turn bright red. The idea is to make the insect look like something a bird would want. In this case, a delicious kind of berry (presumably the unfortunately shaped, but nonetheless delectable, Ant-Ass Berry). The roundworms then somehow take control of their host and force the ant to hustle on up the forest canopy and show off that sexy berry-rump to passersby. The ants actually assume an 'eat-me' position: Head down, bright red ass in the air. If a near-sighted bird in a hurry needs some avian version of fast food and takes the bait, it gets not only a nasty surprise in the form of a mouthful of chemically defended ant-butt, but also a colony of parasites nesting in its guts.
Steve Yanoviak, University of Arkansas
It gives a whole new meaning to the term "dingleberry."
So basically, it's no different from regular fast food.
And stop by LinkSTORM to read more about the Animal Apocalypse.
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