The visual ecology of strobe ants, oPISTHOPSIS spp.
The genus Opisthopsis currently comprises 13 species, 10 of which are found across Australia. Unlike other ants whose eyes are positioned 'within' the head, Opisthopsis eyes extend beyond the corners of the head, hence their name ("opistho," meaning "behind" or "at the back," and "opsis," meaning "appearance" or "sight").
This unique feature, combined with their peculiar way of moving (as shown in the video below), has led myrmecologists to suggest that they have acute 360-degree vision that aids in evading predators.
In this project, I will test this hypothesis, study their visual acuity, and investigate their behavioral strategies for navigation.
Opisthopsis manni showing the big and odd-positioned eyes characteristic of strobe ants. Photo: Wikimmedia Commons.
Black-headed strobe ant, Opisthopsis rufithorax
One of the species that I am studying, at it's typical habitat near Dubbo (NSW). Yes, she might be able to spot you even from that angle!
Opisthopsis spp. are better known as strobe ants for their unique way of moving. They alternate fast bursts of acceleration with brief pauses. It has been hypothesized that this could help them avoid predators. Check this clip and see O. rufithorax in action!
Credits: YouTube user @widebrownland9641