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Impurest's Guide to Animals #67 - Trapjaw Ant

It’s a Trap!! Okay so I missed Star Wars Day, but that doesn't mean I can't quote some classic Ackbar. And that quote is so fitting for this week’s animal. Yes I could mention last weeks animal Balaur bondoc, oh I just did, oh well I hope you enjoy this issue. ___________________________________________________________________

Issue #67 - Trapjaw Ant

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Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Arthropoda

Class – Insecta

Order – Hymanoptera

Family – Formicidae

Genus – Odontomachus

Species – bauri

Related Species - The Trap-jaw Ant is one of 69 species of carnivorous ants in the genus Odontomachus (1)

Range

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Trapped!!

The Trap-Jaw Ant, is a large (about 3cm in length) black ant, with a large head supporting a pair of mandibles with a width of about 6mm. These jaws are held in place by a latch called the clyperus. Held like this, the jaws store potential energy that when released, closes the jaws at a speed of 230-kmph, with the jaws taking less than 300 milliseconds to fully close (2). By angling their jaws downwards, the trap-jaw ant can catapult itself backwards, to a distance of up to 40cm, to escape predation.

These jaws are used to deadly effect while hunting, with the worker ants hunting a range of small invertebrates. While most prey was soft bodied, the remains of termites that use chemical defences have been found in trap-jaw ant nests, suggesting that the species is immune to the acid produced by their prey. In defence the Trap-jaw ant stings and sprays formic acid, with the effects of the venom lasting for up to a week in humans (3).

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Like most ant species, the trap-jaw ant has a single member of the breeding caste, the Queen, serviced by an army of workers. While only around two hundred individuals are found per nest, there may be several related colonies in the area all of whom will co-operate in defence of the area. Individuals from related colonies can be recognised by a chemical called dichloromethane, which will differ between animals from different colonies.

Five Fun Trap-jaw Ant Facts

While the genus Odontomachus may be the most well known group of ants with large hair-trigger jaws, but at least three other ant genus have this feature.

Trap-jaw Ants are so well defended, that the Jumping Spider Enoplomischus mimics members from the genus Odontomachus

When closing its jaws, the Trap-jaw Ant exerts pressure of 300 times its own weight

As large as the jaws of Odontomachus is the male Warrior Wasp (Megalara garuda) has a jaw span longer than its legs. These jaws are used to defend the females nest in return for breeding rights (4)

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As deadly as the Trap-jaw Ant is, another ant species Allomerus decemarticulatus creates a network of pits in tree bark, which are used to trap the legs of prey, allowing the ants to swarm their trapped prey.

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 - Patek SN, Baio JE, Fisher BL, Suarez AV (22 August 2006). "Multifunctionality and mechanical origins: Ballistic jaw propulsion in trap-jaw ants". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103 (34): 12787–12792

3 - Rodriquez-Acosta, A.; Reyes-Lugo, M. (2002). "Severe human urticaria produced by ant (Odontomachus bauri, Emery 1892) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) venom". International Journal of Dermatology: 801–8803

4 - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2029913/Warrior-wasp-discovered-jungle-jaws-longer-legs.html

Picture References

1 - http://m0.i.pbase.com/o6/44/660044/1/144565200.MJcfJpc6._MG_9682Edit.jpg

2 - http://www.discoverlife.org/nh/maps/Insecta/Hymenoptera/Formicidae/Odontomachus/map_of_Odontomachus_bauri.jpg

3 - http://krungkuene.org/imgant/pic/odonttwo.jpg

4 - http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/08/25/article-2029913-0D90688E00000578-1_634x381.jpg

And there we have it, a trap in more ways then one. And while the trap-jaw ant doesn't try to hide the fact it’s a monstrosity, unlike next weeks animal, a deadly predator that hides behind its adorable exterior. But until then critic, comment and suggest future issues as well as making sure you check past issues in Impurest’s Bestiary

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

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