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Leaf Cutter Ants - The Great Ant Escape


Best-Laid Plans Fail to Trap Ants at Academy of Sciences



It took humans about three years and countless hours of planning to rebuild San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences-but less than a year for the leaf cutter ants to figure a way to bust out.

Thousands of ants on exhibit at the museum were put under lockdown last summer after workers discovered they had bored passages inside a feeding tree near their nest in a mock rain forest, which allowed them to flee their enclosure. A new artificial tree has been installed, but officials say the ants will remain locked up for a few more weeks until officials can be sure they don't escape again.

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It took leafcutter ants less than a year to escape their enclosure.

"The ants decided they would like to expand their territory-and proved that they were smarter than the humans who designed their display," says Stephanie Stone, an academy spokeswoman.

Much has been written about the wonders of the academy since it reopened in Golden Gate Park in September 2008 after a $500 million revamp. The academy now boasts a state-of-the-art environmental design with a planted "living roof" and popular attractions such as a living coral reef and a four-story tropical rain forest. Almost three million people have visited since the reopening, allowing the nonprofit to break even on expenses, officials say.

Still, academy officials say a few creatures are besting their carefully laid plans. As a result, workers are having to wage a behind-the-scenes battle against some of the museum's 38,000 living specimens...

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