Photo: Sneaky stowaway hitching a ride? Not exactly

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Our Herculean photo of the day comes from the rainforest of Ecuador.

Upon first glance, the wonder of this photo lies in the famed strength that a leafcutter ant possesses. Carrying loads up to 50 times their own body weight, it's the equivalent of us carrying a medium-size van around. But upon closer inspection, what is that? Another ant peeking out from behind like a sneaky stowaway hitching a ride home.

Despite appearances, however, it turns out the freeloader actually has an important role. According to biologists, leafcutter ants are threatened by a tiny parasitic fly that lays eggs on the heads of ants that have their hands full of leaf. Upon hatching, the larvae burrows into the ant’s head with devastating results. Thus, tiny guards often ride on the leaf to protect the ant doing the heavy lifting.

What an amazing world we live in. Thank you so much to Andreas Kay for this great shot.

Would you like to see your nature photo featured as the TreeHugger photo of the day? Join TreeHugger’s Reader Photo Pool on Flickr and add your pictures to the group.

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