Saturday, 26 August 2017

Please don't step on the dinosaurs

The Big Ant at Poochera
Nothomyrmecia macrops Dinosaur Ant
Last week we were travelling towards Port Augusta after dark and needed to refuel so we stopped at Poochera. This Big Ant model is near the service station at Poochera but I've since read that the town has featured their ant in public art all over the place.

Years ago I had read Edward O Wilson's book about ants, called The Ants, the only professional science work to have won a Pulitzer Prize  - for general nonfiction - in 1991. In that book he tells the intriguing story about this famous ant.

The Dinosaur Ant Nothomyrmecia macrops is the world's most primitive ant and was first collected in 1931. Unfortunately the label was not very helpful so entymologists from across the world looked for the ant north of Esperence in Western Australia for 46 years. In 1977 Robert Taylor and a team of scientists was driving across Australia to look again and stopped after dusk at Poochera in South Australia. Robert was taking a nature break in the scrub and found the ant. It is now thought the EP on the label of the original specimen referred to Eyre Peninsula not Esperence. The town is now a mecca for entymologists across the world.

The ant is a beautiful golden colour and its stings are very painful for humans. Luckily only three people have been stung! The ants live in a colony underground and after dark the workers leave the nest and climb a nearby tree to look for insects. If an ant finds an insect it stings it to death and immediately takes it back underground. By dawn all the workers have returned to the nest and the entrance is obscured.

 So, if you ever visit Poochera please don't step on the dinosaurs.

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