Few potential victims stand a chance against the formidable mandibles of a trap-jaw ant. In conflicts between predators and prey, speed is a decided advantage, and evolution has given these insects an edge with spring-loaded jaws that snap shut—often on their next meal—with astonishing speed.
In the Aug. 30 issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology, National Geographic Explorer Andrew Suarez and his team provide the first mechanical description of the jaws of a little known group of trap-jaw ants called Myrmoteras. Using micro-CT scanners and high-speed cameras, they were able to unravel the unique anatomy that underpins these ants' super-fast jaw movements.
Their research revealed that this group of ants snap their jaws unlike any other known ants, shining new light on the evolutionary history of these ants while also providing new perspective on why and how ants on the whole developed this ability multiple, distinct times in their evolutionary journey.