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These Ants Have Jaws That Are Designed Like Bear-Traps

September 1st, 2017

These Ants Have Jaws That Are Designed Like Bear-Traps

Ants are not the most fascinating of insects. They are tiny, and you have probably inadvertently killed more of them than you could ever count. However, ants are an amazingly diverse group of insects. Some ants can cause serious pain with their bites, whereas other ants can tunnel through the ground with an efficiency that you could not imagine. No matter how boring you may find most ants, there is no denying that a southeast Asian ant belonging to the Myrmoteras family is among the most interesting of all ants. This ant is unique for its unusual jaw anatomy, as well as the physical mechanics that allow it to snap its jaws shut at one seven hundredth of the amount of time that it takes you to blink your eyes.

The Myrmoteras ants are hard to find, so research on these ants is sparse if not entirely non-existent. For decades entomologists and other scientists have wondered how the jaws of this ant operate. It turns out, that their jaws are one of a kind, as no other ant species possess jaws designed to be as deadly as the Myrmoteras ants. An evolutionary biologist by the name of Fred Larabee is now envied among many bug experts as a result of his recent study concerning the spring-loaded jaws of this ant. Larabee has been studying fast-acting trap jaws in ants for several years. Now Larabee refers to himself as an expert on “insect mouthparts.” So far there have been four other ants discovered that possess super fast snapping-jaws like the Myrmoteras. When it comes to the similar and well-studied ants, their jaws functioned like catapults or mousetraps. There jaws will progressively widen, until a mechanism in their skull allowed the jaws to snap shut.

Once Larabee got his hands on a Myrmoteras specimen he recorded several hours of video footage showing the ant in action. Most people in his field wanted to know if this ant used its snapping jaws in a manner similar to how the other ants used theirs. Larabee was able to determine that the ant’s jaws closed at an incredible fifty miles per hour. However, this is only half as fast as another related ant known as Odontomachus. The recently studied ant uses a group of contracting muscles to snap its jaws shut. Ultimately, the Myrmoteras stands alone, as no other ant uses its jaws like the Myrmoteras.

 

Do you believe that an ant’s jaw-snapping mechanism could inspire any type of useful mechanical devices?

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