Register
Login
  • Mike

  • Colony
  • *
    Administrator
    *
    Global Moderator
    *
    Community Manager
This week's Screen Shot Saturday showcases Formica rufa, the wood ant.

Formica rufa (wood ant) colonies can consist of tens of thousands of workers which can be a range of sizes. In Empires of the Undergrowth you will be able to build your wood ants with a variety of roles.

The largest with the dark heads are melee soldiers; the smallest will perform jobs around the nest.

Between are the acid sprayers: they'll shoot a stream of debilitating formic acid at intruders to the nest.

« Last Edit: May 20, 2017, 04:28:30 PM by Mike »

Will these particular ants build giant anthills in the game?

Formica rufa does not have castes.

They are NOT polymorphic in the way Camponotus

or Pheidole

are.

They just have workers of different sizes, like all ants do.
All Formica rufa workers have the same color pattern (unlike Camponotus where the amount, intensity and pattern of secondary colors like red can vary wildly between members of the same colony).


Also the size of an ant doesn't really have something do do with it's aggressiveness and fighting abilities. Leafcutter major workers (the ones that cut leaves, not the soldiers) are huge but bad at fighting and there are super small ants like Strumigenys which are hyperaggressive tiny packages of terror that can fend off ants of more than fifty times their own size.


Btw Formica rufa queens are a socioparasitic and cannot found colonies on their own, they need to infiltrate colonies of other Formica species (like Formica fusca) and murder their queen (or return to their original colony, Formica rufa colonies can have several dozen queens).

Would be cool if there was a level where you play as a Formica rufa queen and have to invade an enemy nest (evading guard posts and be a bit stealthy) to kill the queen and then all the workers defect to your side and you can start using them to kickstart your own colony.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2017, 02:01:40 PM by Serafine »

  • John

  • Soldier
  • *
    Administrator
    *
    Global Moderator
    *
    Developer
Of course you are correct and Formica rufa are only Queens and workers, apologies for the mistake. I have corrected the post accordingly.

  • Mike

  • Colony
  • *
    Administrator
    *
    Global Moderator
    *
    Community Manager
It's me who's responsible for posting Screenshot Saturdays, so my mistake. I'd offer my head in shame but I'm also aware the Formica rufa queen doesn't demand summary executions, at least not in nature.

Wait is this a thing we can do for other types of ants or is this just for the wood ants.
Alone we're weak, Together we're strong...

Wait is this a thing we can do for other types of ants or is this just for the wood ants.
Well, technically there shouldn't be any different types of Formica rufa workers except different sizes (all of them can spray formic acid, even the smallest) but I guess having a single worker type that is a good melee fighter AND has a ranged attack might be a bit much, so I can see why they split that into different unit types for the game.

Carebara diversa (asian marauder ants) could be pretty cool to play because they really have these swarms of tiny 2-3mm minors, some rare medium workers (about 9-10cm) and some massive huge Supermajors (15-18mm).
And unlike Camponotus which have a rather fluid caste system with all shapes and sizes between the smallest and the largest present, Carebara really only come in these three sizes with nothing in between (some rare exceptions might exist in a colony though).
Pheidole species also have something similar.

« Last Edit: May 20, 2017, 10:58:28 PM by Serafine »

  • Liam

  • Larva
  • *
    Administrator
    *
    Global Moderator
    *
    Developer
Serafine - We concede that separating ranged and melee rufa soldiers is more of a gameplay decision than based on reality.  However, I was wondering if you could clarify some points about polymorphic ants, as you seem to know your stuff. 

Currently we get most of our info from Wikipedia (if it has an entry for the ant we are interested in), but it can often be vague, antwiki.org is good too.  Though, when cross-referencing with other sources of information I will often come across information gaps or contradictions.

The Wikipedia entry for Formica rufa states that they are polymorphic and "measuring 4.59 mm in length" with a reference. You state that they are "not polymorphic" and yet you also say that they can come in different sizes. If there are distinct different sizes in a single colony, is this not evidence of polymorphism (using the following definition)?
Polymorphism - "A discontinuous genetic variation divides the individuals of a population into two or more sharply distinct forms".  Does polymorphism imply castes or can these things be independent in some way?

The way that rufa queens found new nests is really interesting, we will have to add a disclaimer into the in-game wiki to point out that our rufa nests shouldn't really have self founded.

Serafine - We concede that separating ranged and melee rufa soldiers is more of a gameplay decision than based on reality.
Yep, that makes sense.

The Wikipedia entry for Formica rufa states that they are polymorphic and "measuring 4.59 mm in length" with a reference. You state that they are "not polymorphic" and yet you also say that they can come in different sizes. If there are distinct different sizes in a single colony, is this not evidence of polymorphism (using the following definition)?
Polymorphism - "A discontinuous genetic variation divides the individuals of a population into two or more sharply distinct forms".  Does polymorphism imply castes or can these things be independent in some way?
Basically the workers of every ant species (with some rare exceptions like Myrmica bull ants and some ponerine species) come in different sizes.

However the term polymorphic is usually only used when they differ not just in size, but also in shape (morphology). The prime example of this are the Pheidole soldiers with their massive heads (other examples are ants like Camponotus, Atta and the larger Solenopsis species).


The way that rufa queens found new nests is really interesting, we will have to add a disclaimer into the in-game wiki to point out that our rufa nests shouldn't really have self founded.
Formica rufa can spread by either budding off from the original colony (the queen returns to it's colony, takes a few hundred workers, walk a few dozen meters and founds a new nest that stays connected to and form some sort of colony network with the main hive and other offspring colonies), nesting somewhere near it's original colony (the workers of her original colony will find her and assist her, essentially this works s like the previous one) or she can take over a small colony of another Formica species like Formica fusca (the queen enters the nest, kills the queen and takes over the colony - usually the queen catches a lonely worker, kills it and rubs herself on it extensively to gain the colony scent of the colony she is going to invade).

You could just make the F. rufa colonies start with a few black garden ant workers (no egg tiles, so if they die they're gone) and it would fit perfectly (they could even have a limited life time, like die after 10 minutes or so).
« Last Edit: May 23, 2017, 06:30:36 PM by Serafine »

  • Liam

  • Larva
  • *
    Administrator
    *
    Global Moderator
    *
    Developer
Quote from: Serafine
You could just make the F. rufa colonies start with a few black garden ant workers (no egg tiles, so if they die they're gone) and it would fit perfectly (they could even have a limited life time, like die after 10 minutes or so).
Ha! This was basically the conclusion we came to today, great minds think alike :D

Also I didn't come across this info:
Quote from: Serafine
usually the queen catches a lonely worker, kills it and rubs herself on it extensively to gain the colony scent of the colony she is going to invade
We were wondering how she did it. - Thanks for that wonderful image

Also, I will keep an eye on the word "polymorphic" in the game and try to only use it when the difference is clearly not just size based.

Also I didn't come across this info:
Quote from: Serafine
usually the queen catches a lonely worker, kills it and rubs herself on it extensively to gain the colony scent of the colony she is going to invade
We were wondering how she did it. - Thanks for that wonderful image
I'm not sure if Formica rufa actually does this but it's a common behavior of parasitic queens, so it's very likely she does. Ants communicate mostly via pheromones and fooling the workers is very important for the invading queens - it doesn't really matters if she looks different, she just needs to smell right.
Also parasitic queens usually have much smaller and flatter gasters when they fly (because they don't need all the resources to raise their own workers) and larger heads and jaws (to kill the host colony's queen and uprising workers).


Taking over a host colony however is a very delicate process and the chances of survival for parasitic ants are actually very very slim (even less than for regular ant queens).
Most antkeepers fail at introducing parasitic queens to a host colony even under the best circumstances, like when that host colony has lost it's queen. I've read an antkeeping journal where the host workers dismembered the newly eclosed workers (of the parastic queen) even months after they had accepted the parasitic queen. They cared for the eggs, the larvae and the pupae but as soon as the new workers eclosed the host workers' instincts kicked it and they tore the alien intruders apart before they could even harden their exoskeletons.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2017, 08:30:09 PM by Serafine »

I was thinking that you could find wood ants, IN TREES!!!

I was thinking that you could find wood ants, IN TREES!!!

You find them in forests on the ground actually



  • Mike

  • Colony
  • *
    Administrator
    *
    Global Moderator
    *
    Community Manager
^ This was why as a kid I put my foot in one, assuming it was a pile of dirt and leaves! I was put off vinegar for quite a while after that.

I was thinking that you could find wood ants, IN TREES!!!
Most wood ants (and a lot of carpenter ants) like to nest in dead tree stumps. They then gather a lot of materials from the ground (leaves, needles, twigs, acorn shells, etc.) and create a huge anthill that covers the tree stump (they can grow up to 3+ meters in height).
Wood ants and carpenter ants are however active on trees where they milk aphids and other insects that suck from these trees.

This picture was taken some weeks ago when they had barely woken up from hibernation. Today half of the stump is covered in an anthill already.



There are ants that live in trees (but only in the dead wood parts) but it's not too common for wood ants. Camponotus (and the tiny Temnothorax) also like to nest in all sorts of logs.