Namib Desert dune ant

Camponotus detritus

The Namib Desert dune ant, ''Camponotus detritus'', is a large ant species distinguished by white and black symmetrical stripes and markings on its hairy abdomen. It has an average mass of 45 milligrams . It is classified within the carpenter ant genus, a large group of more than 1,000 known species, many of which are associated with forested habitats in America and elsewhere. However ''C. detritus'' inhabits the hot dry dunes of the hyper-arid central Namib Desert in Southern Africa. Like many other ant species, it obtains its food and moisture by climbing the stalks of plants and drinking honeydew from scale insects, which themselves feed on shrubs and other perennial plants. It will also feed on dead insects. The nests of this species, located amongst perennial plant roots, are systems of tunnels and chambers between 100–400 millimetres deep. Nests can reach temperatures of 35 °C in summer, though they are much cooler in winter, typically 20–23 °C . Nests are often lined with detritus - hence the binomial Latin name of the species. Each colony contains a single queen.

''C. detritus'' is a diurnal species which uses its long legs to move at 5 mm above the surface, thus avoiding the highest temperatures which at noon in midsummer can reach 60 °C . The temperature at 5 mm may be as much as 15 °C below that of the surface.

The buckspoor spider ''Seothyra'' has been observed preying on these ants by hiding in the sand and grasping one limb of a passing ant, pinning it to the baking surface until it cooks to death, and then dragging it beneath the surface.
Taxonomy
KingdomAnimalia
DivisionArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderHymenoptera
FamilyFormicidae
GenusCamponotus
SpeciesC. detritus
Photographed in
Namibia