Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Jerdon's Jumpers to finish the Year!

It is almost a month since I returned home and it has been a very exciting time for me. With the year drawing to a close in a few more hours, I thought I should end it on a high sharing something amazing with you all!

The Jerdon's Jumping Ant | Harpegnathos saltator (T. C. Jerdon, 1851) has for long been one of my most favorite ants. For many years, I had just heard its name, read about it in Fauna of British India, seen Alexander Wild's photographs and others on the internet which most of the times was always the "red" morph. The first time I had a glimpse of this lady was late in 2013 when I had dismissed it as a Bi-coloured Arboreal Ant | Tetraponera rufonigra (T. C. Jerdon, 1851) since both look similar when seen from a distance. I realized quite later that what I had seen was indeed the Jumper! I couldn't curse my lack of concentration less that day.

The next time I saw it was as a photograph which my close friend and mentor Parag Rangnekar had taken at Verlem, Goa. Since then I have searched almost a year to find these ladies. In November when I had visited Dr. Mustak Ali's laboratory, I chanced upon his wonderful collections and almost drooled on them. I immediately took the H. saltator and started examining it under the microscope enjoying evolution's masterpiece. I badgered Prof. Ali to share with me all that he knew of this species and the more he told me, the more I grew fond of these ladies. I had made up my mind to find them and to test out a small hypothesis that I had formulated in my mind. Almost a week went by, I kept searching for them in the habitat mentioned in various literature without success. Here I should tell you that searching for one species in a forest is like searching for a needle in a haystack, even though you have a magnet in your hand. 

Now and then I came across a flash of rusty red and black. Immediately I would run there with my hand lens only to discover that it was a T. rufonigra. Frustrated, I continued my regular work with my eyes open for them but no success.

One fine morning, I decided "enough of ants, let me do some birding" and off I went to the most unlikely of places within Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary. Birding wise it was good and I was happy. It was getting hot and I decided to return back. Just when I was about to turn, my eyes fell on the ground and I saw a flash of rusty red and black "jump". I was speechless!

In front of me, I was witnessing the Jerdon's Jumping ant getting ready to hunt!

Jerdon's Jumping Ant | Harpegnathos saltator (T. C. Jerdon, 1851)

I sat where I was standing and saw this lovely looking lady open her jaws ever so slowly, arching its body a bit and before I could even blink, made a jump towards a moth. Even the moth was not sure what was coming towards it, and the distance the ant jumped was phenomenal! It covered almost 20-30 cm in that single jump! Within two seconds, she had stung the moth injecting her potent venom and held the moth in her vice like grip till it stopped resisting. Then with the most careless attitude possible, she swung the moth in her jaws and started walking back to her nest.

I was speechless, surprised, shocked and every other expression I could possibly be that day! 

Fortunately, I had my Tamron with me and swiftly switched my lens (which I usually never do on the field) and took 2 shots of her with the moth. With this event, I successfully have added this species to the Checklist of ants of Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and ended up proving my own hypothesis wrong.

Jerdon's Jumping Ant | Harpegnathos saltator (T. C. Jerdon, 1851) with moth kill

I have now spent almost a week observing them, and the more I see the more I am in awe of them! They almost have an intelligent look in their eyes, and yes this is one species which uses its eyes very extensively and is well developed in them. 

This was certainly the way I wanted my year to end, though I least expected it!

As a conclusion to the last post of the year, I would like to thank my Parents and Harshada who have always stood by me and supported me in all my eccentric forays, my teachers/mentors Dr. Vaibhav Chindarkar, Dr. K. Chandrashekara, Dr. K. V. Deviprasad, Dr. T. M. Mustak Ali, Shyamal Lakshminarayan Sir, Parag Rangnekar Bhai and others for its because of their guidance and support I am whatever little I am. Finally to my friends who have always tolerated me and my constant ramblings of Ants and other things! A special mention to my friend and "elder brother" Amit Bandekar who had once told me something unknowingly about "Goa" and "Paddy fields" which I am glad I have taken seriously!

I wish all the readers of my blog and their family, a very Happy New year with the wish that you all have a really wonderful year ahead filled with lots of joy and colours in your life!

I on my part will keep sharing my experiences with all of you as I continue on the
"Ant Trail- My Journey with Ants"

Jerdon's Jumping Ant | Harpegnathos saltator (T. C. Jerdon, 1851)


  1. Wishing you a wonderful year to come and may it end just like this one, with joy and the excitement of discovery. Warmest Wishes. Anne

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