The discrepancy between fire ant recruitment to and performance on rodent carrion. Academic Article uri icon


  • Ants have not been considered important in the process of vertebrate carrion decomposition, but a recent literature review reported over 150 carrion-visiting ant species. Though many ant species have been observed to remove carrion tissue and consume carrion-exuded liquids, the significance of ant recruitment to vertebrate carrion is poorly understood. We conducted a combination of field and laboratory experiments to quantify red imported fire ant recruitment to rodent carrion and determine whether consuming rodent carrion is beneficial to ant colony performance. In the field, 100% of rat carcasses were rapidly colonized by fire ants at high abundances. In our laboratory experiment, the performance of mice-fed fire ant colonies was poor when compared to colonies that were fed mice and insects or insects only. Our results suggest that there is a discrepancy between high levels of fire ant recruitment to vertebrate carrion and the poor colony performance when fed carrion. We hypothesize that fire ants are attracted to vertebrate carrion not because it is a high-quality food, but rather because it hosts large numbers of other invertebrates that can serve as prey for fire ants, potentially showcasing an interesting case of tritrophic interaction in carrion ecology.

published proceedings

  • Sci Rep

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Lin, C., Tarone, A. M., & Eubanks, M. D.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Lin, Constance||Tarone, Aaron M||Eubanks, Micky D

publication date

  • January 2022