RALEIGH — Since 2003, Sean O’Donnell has been researching army ants in Central and South America. He has even been called on to share his expertise on multiple television documentaries, such as National Geographic’s “Patrick Stewart’s Animal Superpowers” in 2011 and BBC America’s “Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan” in 2013.
His research on army ants has also helped him understand a different family of peculiar animals: antbirds. Join O’Donnell for a special presentation, “A Moveable Feast: The Amazing Lives of Army Ants and the Birds that Follow Them,” on Monday, February 24 at 7pm at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Free.
“One thing you really can’t help but notice when following army ant colonies around is the amazing array of birds that come down and troop along with the army ants as they sweep through the forest,” says O’Donnell, associate department head of Drexel University’s Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science. According to O’Donnell, when army ants are swarming through the forest, they scare off many small animals. The birds swoop in to capture them. Some antbirds get little or none of their food from anywhere else; they rely completely on following army ant colonies. They move through the forests and memorize the ants’ locations, and out-compete other birds.
O’Donnell’s presentation, targeted to visitors 12 and older, will explore the surprising behavior and ecology of army ants, mini-predators of tropical forests, and the birds that depend on them for food. His broader research interests span organisms from insects to birds, and topics from neurobiology to tropical ecology. O’Donnell also conducts field research and teaches courses in Central and South America.
Arrive early (6pm) for light refreshments and poster presentations from local university students.