Costa Rica ants are among the most unique of all the Costa Rica animals. Costa Rica is home to some of the most beautiful and original ecosystems in the world. The Costa Rica wildlife that inhabits those ecosystems is known the world over for specialized adaptations and unusual species and behaviors. Leaf cutter ants are one of the most fascinating of all Costa Rica animals.
The leaf cutter ant is the largest ant in Central America. These Costa Rica ants can be seen carrying slices of green leaves on their backs one by one like bright parasols. They move in large numbers, each ant carrying a separate slice of leaf, and are amazing to watch.
Leaf cutter ants do not eat the leaves they carry back to their subterranean dens. Instead, they chew the leaves to form a kind of mulch which they then feed to a special fungus that they cultivate underground. These Costa Rica ants are true farmers. Over many years they have developed a mutual relationship with the rare fungus, keeping it free of disease and pests and helping it to grow. In return, the fungus produces a structure called a gongylidia on which these Costa Rica ants can feed themselves.
Leaf cutter ants are one of only three species of insects in the entire world that have evolved fungus-based agriculture. The Costa Rica ants are so sensitive to the needs of the fungus they cultivate that they can even tell which kinds of leaves the fungus can best use to create their food, and which kinds of leaves are poisonous to the fungus. When they detect that a certain leaf is poisonous to the fungus, they quit collecting that type of leaf.
Leaf cutter ants can be one of the more damaging forms of Costa Rica wildlife, despite how industrious and interesting they are. These Costa Rica animals are capable of defoliating an entire citrus tree in only 24 hours. They can wipe out crops and damage roads and farmland by building their large underground nests beneath them.
A single nest of leaf cutters can house more than eight million ants. The ants are called “wee wee” ants by the Costa Ricans, but they are not tiny, and where there is one, there are millions nearby. Even so, the ants are nothing to fear. Infestations are treated the same way as any other bug infestation: Wood piles are cleared and measures are taken to keep this unusual form of Costa Rica wildlife from becoming a pest.
Another unusual ant that is unique to the Costa Rican and Central American rain forest is the army ant. Army ants are jungle ants that wander in packs of tens of thousands and are capable of devouring entire carcasses of small animals in minutes. These rare Costa Rica animals make a faint hissing sound as they move through over jungle terrain. They emit a distinctive though faint odor that signals their approach. Army ants serve a real purpose in the rain forest by clearing carcasses and keeping the jungle clean.
Costa Rica wildlife and Costa Rica animals have developed their unique characteristics over many generations of living in unspoiled Costa Rican terrain. Costa Rica contains many tropical and subtropical microenvironments that have remained untouched for millennia, and continue to provide rich habitats for rare Costa Rica animals. Costa Rica ants are among the most fascinating species in the world and regularly draw biologists and entomologists from all over the globe to study them.
Much of what we know about all ants is a result of the study of the unusual ant species of Costa Rica. Costa Rica wildlife continues to attract tourists and scholars worldwide, and is often featured on nature programs and televised reports about rain forest terrain and rain forest animals.