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Golden-tailed spiny ants

Golden-tailed spiny ants

What are golden-tailed spiny ants and what do they look like?

Golden-tailed spiny ants are insects. Like all insects their bodies are divided into three parts - the head, thorax and abdomen. Spiny ants have thorn-like spines on their bodies. Golden-tailed spiny ants have one horizontal pair of spines on the thorax, and two smaller ones behind. Australia has over 100 species of spiny ants.

Golden-tailed spiny ants are 6-8 mm in length which makes them medium to large sized ants. They have shiny, golden hairs on their black bodies with a thick glossy layer on the abdomen.

The scientific name for golden-tailed spiny ants is Polyrhachis ammon.

Where do golden-tailed spiny ants live?

Golden-tailed spiny ants are commonly found in eucalypt forests along the east coast of Australia from Victoria to Northern Queensland. They live in nests called colonies. The colony is made up of one or more queens, female workers and males. 

They are ground dwelling ants and can be seen under rocks, log piles and sand at the base of trees and shrubs.

What do golden-tailed spiny ants eat?

Golden tailed spiny ants are omnivorous. They get what they need from both plants and animals. They eat nectar from wattle and eucalypt flowers. Water droplets on leaves provide them with water. They eat dead and living insects.

What eats golden-tailed spiny ants?

Golden-tailed spiny ants are food for animals such as lizards, echidnas and birds. 

What adaptations do golden-tailed spiny ants have to their environment?

Golden-tailed spiny ants have a mutualistic relationship with other insects such as leaf hoppers. A mutualistic relationship is one where two different types of animals benefit from each other.

Leafhoppers feed on plant sap which is then excreted as a sugar-rich liquid called honeydew. Eucalyptus trees are a particular favourite for leafhoppers. Golden-tailed spiny ants tap the leafhopper with their antennae. The leafhopper responds by excreting a drop of honeydew.

In return the leafhopper is protected from predatory insects as the ants gather around them collecting the honeydew.

Golden-tailed spiny ants have a few features they use for defence. When threatened they will curl their bodies upwards to display their spines.

The tip of the abdomen is called the gaster. The gaster has a small hole which can shoot out acid. This is a handy defence mechanism as they do not have a venomous stinger like many other ants.

How do golden-tailed spiny ants reproduce?

In ant colonies there are one or more queens, female workers and males whose only job is to mate with the queen. Queens are born with wings. Males have wings too.

They fly into the air to mate. Life is a short lived experience for males! They die soon after mating and become food for other animals such as birds and lizards.

Once the queen has found a good place to nest she loses her wings and never has to mate again. 

What is the life cycle of golden-tailed spiny ants?

Ants experience a complete metamorphosis (physical change). There are four stages in the lifecycle of ants. The queen ant lays tiny eggs in a nest. 

Larvae hatch from the eggs and shed their skin multiple times as they grow. The queen feeds them with her saliva. 

As the larvae get bigger they begin to develop into pupa. Some ant species wrap themselves in a silk cocoon for protection at this stage. 

After a few weeks the pupae emerge as adult ants. The four stages in the ant lifecycle varies from weeks to months depending on the species. 

Find out more

The Invertebrate Explorer digital book explores the incredible world of Australian invertebrates.

Students can use the book to investigate classification, features, adaptations and habitats of a variety of Australian invertebrates through narrated videos, stunning images, interactive activities and detailed text.

This book was designed by teachers to support the NSW Science and Technology K-6 Syllabus and NSW English K-6 Syllabus.

Content supports living world, Australian animals and class studies on invertebrates.

Download free from Apple Books

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