A type of ant from Southeast Asia has developed a mechanism to cope with its rapidly moving prey. The ant, belonging to the genus Myrmoteras, has a spring-like bony material at the back of its neck. This material can make its jaw snap over its prey as quickly as the blink of an eye.
These ants developed the mechanism to be quicker than their prey
These Myrmoteras ants have a thin but spiny mandible, which locks open in a certain position, at an angle of 270 degrees. Then, whenever its prey gets close, the bony material sets the jaw free, which shuts over it at a medium speed of 60 mph. This happens mostly to any of its prey, but the most common is a springtail, a flea-resembling bug which jumps at high speeds.
Fred Larabee, one of the scientists who studied these ants, explained how this mechanism evolved. The creatures are in a constant race with their prey, where the quickest survives.
“In order to capture their food, they have to have faster predation mechanisms than the prey they’re seeking out.”
High-speed technology showed researchers how quick the movements of the jaws were
With the help of advanced technology, researchers managed to study the mechanism behind these strong jaws. Myrmoteras are only one species among many other trap-jaw ants, but they fashion a really interesting trapping system.
Their heads are shaped differently, as they have a strange lobe at their backs. This lobe, together with the spring-like mechanism, receive tension when the mandible is open. After capturing 50,000 frames per second, they managed to see the speed at which these movements took place. All the other findings are present in a paper in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Thanks to the high-speed camera, they managed to see how all the movements unraveled. Then, thanks to the X-rays used by the CT scan, they observed a 3D image of all the structure of the bones in the ants’ mandible and head.
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