Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/51

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HOW MUCH ANIMALS KNOW.

had utilized the time to cover the dome with defenders. An indescribable struggle followed, but the superior numbers of the Amazons overcame, and they penetrated into the nest, while the defenders poured by thousands out of the same holes, with their larvae and pupae in their jaws, and escaped to the nearest plants and bushes, running over the heaps of their assailants. These looked on the matter as hopeless, and began to retreat. But the rufibarbes, furious at their proceedings, pursued them, and endeavored to get away from them the few pupa? they had obtained, by trying to seize the Amazons' legs and to snatch away the pupae. The Amazon lets its jaws slip slowly along the captive pupa, as far as the head of its opponent, and pierces it, if it does not, as generally happens, draw back. But it often manages to seize the pupa at the instant at which the Amazon lets it go, and flees with it. This is managed the more easily when a comrade holds the robber by the legs, and compels it to loose its prey in order to guard itself against its assailant. The strength of the rufibarbes proved at last so great that the rear-guard of the retreating army was seriously pressed, and was obliged to give up its booty. A number of the Amazons also were overpowered and killed, but not without the rufibarbes also losing many people. Nevertheless, some individuals, as though desperate, rushed into the thickest hosts of the enemy, penetrated again into the nest, and carried off several pupæ by sheer audacity and skill. Ten minutes after the commencement of the retreat, all the Amazons had left the nest, and, being swifter than their opponents, they were only pursued for about half-way back. Their attack had failed on account of a short delay.

It seems to be a pretty general habit among many species of ants to dispose of the dead bodies of their comrades very carefully. The following especially notable account is given by an Australian observer:

"I saw a large number of ants surrounding the dead ones, and determined to watch their proceedings closely. I followed four or five that started off from the rest toward a hillock a short distance off, in which was an ants' nest. This they entered, and in about five minutes they reappeared, followed by others. All fell into rank, walking regularly and slowly two by two, until they arrived at the spot where lay the dead bodies of the soldier-ants. In a few minutes two of the ants advanced and took up the dead body of one of their comrades; then two others, and so on, until all were ready to march. First walked two ants bearing a body, then two without a burden; then two others with another dead ant, and so on, until the line was extended to about forty pairs, and the procession now moved slowly onward, followed by an irregular body of about two hundred ants. Occasionally the two laden ants stopped, and, laying down the dead ant, it was taken up by the two walking unburdened behind them, and thus, by occasionally relieving each other, they arrived at a sandy spot near the sea. The body of ants now commenced digging with their jaws a number of holes