Dracula Ant Sets The Record For Fastest Moving Animal

Posted: Dec 14 2018, 9:05am CST | by , Updated: Dec 14 2018, 9:09am CST, in Latest Science News

 

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Dracula Ant Sets the Record for Fastest Moving Animal
Credit: Adrian Smith

Dracula ants can snap their jaws at speeds of up to 90 meters per second, 5,000 times faster than the blink of an eye.

A tiny ant that feeds on the blood of its own larvae possesses the fastest known moving appendage. The Dracula ant, also known as Mystrium camillae, is found in the tropical areas of Southeast Asia and Australia and can snap its jaws at speeds of up to 90 meters per second, 5000 times faster than the blink of an eye.

"These ants are fascinating as their mandibles are very unusual," said lead researcher Andrew Suarez from University of Illinois. "Even among ants that power-amplify their jaws, the Dracula ants are unique: Instead of using three different parts for the spring, latch and lever arm, all three are combined in the mandible."

The snap-jaw movement of Dracula ants begins by pressing the tips of limb-like mandibles together and spring-loading them with internal stresses that release when the fast, striking mandible slides over the slower, loading mandible. Researchers are still unsure how Dracula ants use their mandibles in the field. Ants have usually evolved their ability to quickly snap their powerful jaws shut to capture a speedy prey or to defend their nests.

To visualize the motion, researchers filmed the ants at 480,000 frames per second. The observations allowed researchers to determine how the ant’s jaws likely work. Researchers found that their jaw movement is completely different from other ants that have been studied. Unlike non-snapping ant species, Dracula ant mandibles are flattened and bend and act as a spring, powering the high-speed snap. This means that the small changes in jaw shape have helped Dracula ants achieve incredibly swift movement, which is 5000 times faster than the blink of an eye, 1000 times faster than the snap of a finger and 3 times faster than the snap of trap-jaw ant, the former ant with fastest animal movement on record.

"Scientists have described many different spring-loading mechanisms in ants, but no one knew the relative speed of each of these mechanisms. We had to use incredibly fast cameras to see the whole movement. We also used X-ray imaging technology to be able to see their anatomy in three dimensions, to better understand how the movement works,” said Fredrick J. Larabee from Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

"Our main findings are that snap-jaws are the fastest of the spring-loaded ant mouthparts, and the fastest currently known animal movement. By comparing the jaw shape of snapping ants with biting ants, we also learned that it only took small changes in shape for the jaws to evolve a new function: acting as a spring."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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