Sahara desert ants have to deal with the high temperature and lack of food and water resources, in addition to predators, which means they live a tough life.
What Do Sahara Desert Ants Eat? Sahara desert ants eat dead insects or are involved in thermophilic scavenging because they eat arthropods that die due to less tolerance to heat stress. Moreover, they consume animal carcasses easily found in the desert. They have to tackle the heat to reach their food source and use larger mandibles to eat it.
Cataglyphis bicolor is common in the Sahara desert that can be distinguished by its black abdomen and brownish bodies. It shares a genus with Saharan silver ants having bodies covered with hair.
Moreover, these species of insects have developed adaptations in their eating behavior to ensure survival. They depend on visuals and directions to find the shortest routes back to the colony.
What do Sahara desert ants prefer to eat?
Sahara desert ants have fewer food options because they rarely find trees laden with juicy fruits to provide sucrose-rich liquids for nutrition.
In the same way, they cannot find plenty of water sources on the ground surface covered with sand. It is challenging for these insects to spend their lives in stressful conditions like high temperatures.
They need more water and food to keep their bodies hydrated and avoid the risk of drying, which can ultimately lead to their death.
Dead arthropods and insects
Most commonly, the Sahara desert ants rely on the protein-rich meat of dead insects to get their nutrition and survive in harsh climatic conditions.
This species looks for dead insects all around the sandy desert, as there are numerous insects in the Sahara desert, including termites, flies, moths, beetles, and locusts.
All insects have different tolerance limits for heat stress and sometimes die when they have to walk a long distance on the hot substrate while looking for food.
Accordingly, they can become a source of nutrition for these tiny insects that are good at scavenging the bodies of dead insects.
In the same way, some dead arthropods can also become a source of nutrition for these crawling creatures as they find dead bodies of deathstalker scorpions and enjoy feasting on them.
Some species of beetles, including dung and scarab beetles, can also provide essential vitamins and minerals in addition to proteins.
Saharan silver ants are also good at scavenging spiders and even have the potential to kill a spider by biting or stinging their bodies when they find no other food source.
Sahara desert ants are scavenging insects that prefer to break the dead bodies of bigger animals into smaller chunks commonly found in the sand to easily eat them.
Most commonly, ostrich, sand foxes, Saharan cheetahs, antelopes, and hyrax are found to be living in this region of the Earth.
In addition, they can also find the dead carcasses of jerboa, a commonly found rodent in the desert. It prefers to predate at night, so they come in contact when dead.
Many other mammal species in this sandy desert include gerbil, hedgehog, spotted hyena, Libyan striped weasel, and Barbary sheep.
These ants can get a chance to extract nutrients from the dead carcasses of gazelle, mongoose, dama deer, and jackals that are seen to be present in the desert.
How do Sahara desert ants get their food?
Sahara desert ants have smaller to moderate size colonies based on hundreds or thousands of members, including workers, males, and queens.
The workers are responsible for collecting food and feeding their colony members, so they leave nests and go out to look for the dead insects and carcasses.
They have to make an effort to locate the food source because deserts do not support trees and other animals, as only heat-tolerant species can survive there.
Accordingly, they scavenge on the corpses and store the food particles in their bellies. In addition, they also prefer to carry the dead bodies of insects to their nests to store for later use.
It can be a plan for the future because they sometimes have to remain hungry for days. So, they can use stored corpses for their tiny bodies when the summers are deadly hot.
They have a sense of spatial orientation that help them reach distant areas and get back to their homes without getting lost. The Cataglyphis species use visual homing strategies to return home.
When do Sahara desert ants eat?
Commonly, desert animals and animals are nocturnal and come out of their homes at night to search for food and fill their empty bellies with food particles.
However, the workers in a colony of desert ants leave their nests in the daytime, so they are real warriors that have the courage to navigate the deserts during hot days.
Sahara desert ants have adapted themselves according to their environment to forage during the warmest hours of the day, which can be deadly for some insects due to the risk of severe dehydration.
This daytime foraging helps avoid the risk of being eaten by predators because they rarely have hidden spots on the plain sandy grounds.
In addition, this foraging behavior helps avoid competition for food resources as they get a chance to reach the bodies of dead insects and animal carcasses before others.
One of the most common adaptations in these desert ants is their running speed, as they can quickly move on the hot sand, which can help avoid deadly hot conditions.
Furthermore, they have also adapted at the molecular level as heat shock proteins are produced in their bodies to protect their bodies from severe damage due to heat stress.
Some antioxidants are also involved in their incredible tolerance to heat in addition to cuticular hydrocarbons, making them resistant to environmental stress.
How often do Sahara desert ants eat?
These insects get fewer chances to eat food because they cannot access dead insects and animals regularly. They eat less food compared to other species native to urban areas.
Sahara desert ants do not get a chance to feast on man-made foods and rely on only food types provided by nature, like trees and animals.
Some species consume seeds and leaves, while others prefer scavenging on dead bodies. These ants remain hungry for more than a day, sometimes when they have no food.
These insects can deal with a lack of food and water for many days to weeks, allowing them to survive in dry conditions or the absence of food.