Humans and Leaf-Cutter Ants Contribute to Global Warming through Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Humans are not the only animals to build elaborate housing and grow crops—or to add carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere through their industry. A new study shows that the leaf-cutter ant Atta cephalotes is also a master builder and cultivator and a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.


Found in ecosystems throughout the New World, Atta species excavate massive, several-meter-deep underground nests that include complex tunnels and chambers, exits, and entrances. The ants drag vast quantities of vegetation into the nests to feed their main food source: a fungus called Leucoagaricus gongylophorus. To maintain the proper concentrations of CO2 and oxygen belowground, the nests also feature air vents and chimney-like turrets that enhance ventilation.

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