Ants are found all over the world, and therefore so are their predators. Ants live in large colonies and are usually slow-moving, making them easy pickings for many types of animals. Several animals, from birds to mammals to lizards, consume ants, and even humans have been known to indulge.
Perhaps the best-known consumer of ants is the giant anteater. These mammals have long snouts and tongues, perfect for attacking anthills. They use their claws to create an opening in the anthill and then gorge on the contents, eating quickly to avoid the painful stings of the ants. Anteaters never destroy an anthill, preferring to leave it standing so they can return later. They can eat thousands of ants in a day. Anteaters are typically found in the tropical forests and grasslands of Central and South America.
Several species of lizard eat ants; for some, such as horned lizards, ants make up most of their diet. Sometimes mistakenly called horned toads, these lizards can be recognised from the crest of horns jutting from the top of their head. Ants are 60 to 90 per cent of a horned lizard's diet in the wild, and people who keep these lizards as pets have to buy large quantities of ants to keep their pets satisfied. Horned lizards are found mostly in warm, dry regions of the United States and in Mexico.
Many insect-eating birds eat ants. These include sparrows, wrens and starlings, but no North American bird eats more ants than the flicker. Flickers are a variety of woodpecker, but instead of spending their time in trees, flickers prefer to pick ants off the ground. Two varieties are found in North America: the yellow-shafted and red-shafted flicker. Both varieties are colourful and have the red spot on the head that all woodpeckers have.
Some species of ants attack and eat others of their kind. Ecitoninae ants specialise in seeking out and killing other ants. After they have killed the ants, they carry off and eat the colony's brood, or offspring. Similarly, fire ants raid ant colonies to obtain their brood. Some species have even developed a response mechanism to these raids, abandoning their nests and retreating when they spot invading ants.
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