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A Lion in Fly’s Clothing


Antlion, Coorg -


Did this miniature model of entomological royalty get its name because it’s the king of animals in its weight group? Or does the Antlion’s name owe more to its voracious predation of ants? The jury has been out for a while now, and while the debate doesn’t seem to suggest an early resolution, the rule of the Antlions in the sandpits of Coorg, makes for fascinating reading. The specimen seen above is a fully matured adult, and is differentiated from dragonflies and damselflies by its clubbed antennae that are as long as the head and thorax combined. The reputation of the Antlion, however, is mostly built at the larval stage itself. And it was this reputation that inspired the creation of the fearsome Sarlacc, the sand digging monster of Star Wars. The Antlion larva, true to all the hype, is a ferocious warrior who digs himself a corkscrew pit in the sand and awaits those foolish enough to visit the edge. Unwary visitors are mostly ants who come to the edge and slither down the unstable surface, aided in their descent by the larva firing loose rubble artillery at them. Once the poor ant is trapped, the larva uses the hollow projections in its monstrous jaws to suck out all the body fluid and then flicks the dry carcass out of the pit. The Antlion larva, however, doesn’t sit in its sandy throne forever. Post metamorphosis, it emerges from the cocoon as a fully matured insect, grows wings and flies off to find a mate so that the whole cycle of creation can be repeated again. And a new pride of Antlions can lord it over the sand pits of Coorg.


Photograph: Ganesh H. Shankar Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy

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