Subterranean Ant Metropolis
Native to the Americas, the Leafcutter ants are fascinating because they form one of the largest and most complex animal societies on Earth, second only to our own. In Brazil, a team of scientists found one such Leafcutter civilisation completely abandoned—its millions of ant inhabitants had disappeared for an unknown reason, leaving behind a vast, sophisticated city. In order to get a better view, the team, led by Luis Forge, spent ten days pouring ten tonnes of concrete through ventilation holes on the surface. The labyrinth of tunnels acted as a mould as the concrete hardened, and after a month, the team moved in and began to excavate the soil—soon uncovering the incredible metropolis below. Covering an area of 50 square metres and spanning 8 metres deep, the elaborate subterranean city contained series of highways, side roads, main chambers, fungus gardens, rubbish pits—all so intricate that it might have been designed by a master architect. But the city wasn’t the result of a single mind—it was the result of a co-called “superorganism”: millions of coordinated ants who moved over 35 tonnes of soil in the construction of their incredible civilisation, carting it to the surface in billions of loads.
Watch the clip from Nature’s Secret Power documentary