Invasive red fire ants from South America have become a major pest in southwestern U.S., bringing their stinging venom and crop-destroying ways. In this edition of Field Talk, we catch up with Tracy Langkilde, assistant professor of biology at Penn State University, who studies one of the ants’ seemingly unlikely targets: eastern fence lizards. The lizards have evolved a novel twitching response that flicks attacking ants off their bodies. But in her paper in the January issue of Ecology, Dr. Langkilde explains that since native ants don’t normally attack lizards, this behavior must have evolved in a very short time.
Ecology 2009 90:1, 208-217