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Leafcutter ants choose architecturally sound building materials

South American leafcutter ants build turrets on their nests

Favio Roces

Ants that construct turrets for their nests choose what to build them with in an architecturally sound way, even when given unfamiliar materials.

South American leafcutter ants (Acromyrmex fracticornis) carry plant clippings into underground chambers where they use them to cultivate fungus for food. To promote fungal growth, they build thatch-like turrets that keep rainwater from flooding their nests and that create the correct humidity level.

In their natural environment, the ants select thick wooden sticks for the base of the turrets, overlapping them like a log cabin, and …