Cephalotes is a broad genus of ants. They are heavily armoured – it makes you wonder just how formidalble they would look if we were the same size. The amazing thing about many of them is the head – used to plug a gap as it were. Above is an ant of the species Cephalotes varians.
The ants live in trees in the forest areas of the new world tropics and the subtropics. Some Cephalotes species can even glide back to the tree if they are knocked from it. Most of them are what is known as polymorphic which means that they have various castes that have a specific use and purpose in the colony. Above is another example of Cephalotes varians, also known as the turtle ant. We are afraid we cannot tell you for sure why this one has wings - perhaps when a new colony is being formed?
When you see a flat head like that, it is almost reminiscent of triceratops (perhaps an overactive imagination at work here) and you might think that the head has been developed like this for either attack or defense. The dorsal view of Cephalotes varians gives you an idea of the compact power behind this ant. You can imagine that once a hole is plugged, this guy is not going to let anything in unless he wants to.
To put it simply the flat head is a plug – nothing more nothing less. The cephalotes have a habit of using old holes in trees in which they will make the entrance to their nest. Now, sometimes other creatures will have the same thing in mind, particularly the Crematogaster acrobat ant. Above is another species that demonstrates the same features (we prefer the colors too), which is Cephalotes targionii.
So, what you need is a door, something to swing open and shut when desired. It says something for this remarkable species that they developed a caste just for this purpose. Above is Cephalotes pellans, another species that shares the same traits.