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An evolutionary arms race

Documentary video
10mn 20s



Did you know that beetles can read ant trails and snails smell like ant pupae?  These beetles and snails in the Malaysian rainforest depend on army ants for housing and food, but the army ants move frequently to new nest sites. This results in tens of thousands of ants marching together to find a new place to live. But if one looks carefully at the marching ants, one can see some surprising things!
 Volker Witte (LMU Munich) works on army ants in the rainforest near Kuala Lumpur. Volker and the others in his team divide their time between the rainforest (to observe the ants) and the laboratory in Munich (to do modern chemical analysis of smells and trails). They want to understand how snails, beetles and spiders (and at least 7 other species) have adapted to the ants and what counter-adaptations have evolved in the ants.


Directors: Brant Backlund & Marion Hartl - Script & editing: Brant Backlund - Camera operator: Brant Backlund - Second Camera: Marion Hartl - Equipment Manager: Robert Sigl - Narration: Peter Hayden  - Music: Chris Tegg - Production Manager: Marion Hartl - Production Assistants: Christoph von Beeren & Sofia Lizon à l'Allemand - Producer: Brant Backlund  - Executive Producer: Pleuni Pennings - Production: LMU Munich (2009)

Scientific expert

Volker Witte

Volker Witte

LMU Munich, Germany
Behavioural ecology

« Being in the rainforest and studying its interesting creatures and their interactions feels like experiencing evolution live. Each time in the field we discover new and exciting things. Such fascinating biological systems are the motivation for my research.»


Canopé Ludwig Maximilians Universität München Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster