ZeFrank on trap-jaw ants

April 15, 2021 • 1:00 pm

ZeFrank’s videos are getting biologically more interesting but still retain their humor.  Here’s a wonderful ten-minute video on a remarkable genus of ant, Odontomachus.

I’m going to put in some information about the group from Wikipedia here, as it reinforces what’s in the video:

Commonly known as trap-jaw ants, species in Odontomachus have a pair of large, straight mandibles capable of opening 180 degrees. These jaws are locked in place by an internal mechanism, and can snap shut on prey or objects when sensory hairs on the inside of the mandibles are touched. The mandibles are powerful and fast, giving the ant its common name. The mandibles either kill or maim the prey, allowing the ant to bring it back to the nest. Odontomachus can simply lock and snap its jaws again if one bite is not enough, or to cut off bits of larger food. The mandibles also permit slow and fine movements for other tasks such as nest building and care of larvae.The ants were also observed to use their jaws as a catapult to eject intruders or fling themselves backwards to escape a threat.

The larvae of trap-jaw ants are remarkable in being ornamented with long spikes and presenting dorsal adhesive pads for fixation onto internal ant nest walls. They are carnivorous, extremely active larvae. Apparently, they undergo three larval moults before entering metamorphosis. Their larvae use substrate to spin cocoons.

Trap-jaw ants of this genus have the second fastest moving predatory appendages within the animal kingdom, after the dracula ant (Mystrium camillae). One study of Odontomachus bauri recorded peak speeds of between 126 and 230 kilometres per hour (78 and 143 mph), with the jaws closing within just 130 microseconds on average. The peak force exerted was in the order of 300 times the body weight of the ant and acceleration of 1 000 000 m/s² or 100 000 g.

They even show also a cool cardboard model demonstrating how the trap-jaws work. The later bit about how these ants escape ant-lion lairs is really nice as well.

And I mustn’t neglect those scientists who contributed to this video, including Alex Wild, who’s been featured several times on this site.

Thank you to Dr. Adrian Smith! Most of the footage in this video is from Dr. Smith’s YouTube channel. He has all sorts of wonderful content there, and does a much more thorough job in explaining all of the science behind his work. Thank you to Dr. Alex Wild! Please look at Dr. Wild’s incredible collection of photos: http://www.alexanderwild.com Thank you Dr. Fred Larabee, Josh C. Gibson and DR. Eduardo Fox for their amazing footage.

5 thoughts on “ZeFrank on trap-jaw ants

  1. A wonderful genus that I hope to see and photograph one day. So far only False Trap-jaw Ants genus Anochetus

  2. Oh I always LOVE the insect ones! Thank you. That video was great.
    As I’ve said before: We have a scale problem here. If these little buggers were 100 or 1000 times larger people would be paying thousands of dollars to see and ohh and ahh at them at a Jurassic Insect Park. There’d be celebrity ants and wasps, team sports, MMA, etc.
    I’d be first in line.


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