Dracula Ant's mortal Snap-Jaw makes him the "fastest animal on Earth"


Sorry, cheetah and peregrine falcon, the fastest animal on earth is … the ant Dracula. And it's all thanks to your deadly jaw.

According to a new study, the ant Dracula, Mystrium camillae, can break their jaws at speeds of up to 90 meters per second (over 200 mph), making it the fastest animal movement ever recorded.

The ants use this scary and high-impact movement, which is 5,000 times faster than a blink of an eye, attacking other arthropods, stun them, crushing them against a tunnel wall or pushing them away, according to researchers whose report was published . in magazine Royal Society Open Science. The poor prey is then transported back to the nest, where it is fed to the larvae of the ants.

"These ants are fascinating because their jaws are very unusual," said Andrew Suarez, a professor of animal biology and entomology at the University of Illinois, who led the research with Fredrick J. Larabee, a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian National Museum of History Natural; and Adrian A. Smith of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science and North Carolina State University in Raleigh. "Even among ants that amplify their jaws, the Dracula ants are unique: instead of using three different parts for the spring, the latch and the lever arm, all three are combined in the jaw."

Another ant type, the ant-jaw, also uses the jaws at intermittent speed to catch or stun its prey and fight with other ants. But the powerful jaws of the ants can close from an open position, while Dracula ants attach their jaws pressing the tips together, carrying them with internal tensions that loosen as one jaw slides across the other, similar to a snap human finger, the researchers said.

"Scientists have described many spring-loading mechanisms in ants, but no one knew the relative speed of each of these mechanisms," Larabee said. "We had to use incredibly fast cameras to see the whole movement. We also use X-ray imaging technology to see your anatomy in three dimensions to better understand how the movement works. "

Professor of entomology and animal biology Andrew Suarez and his colleagues studied the speed and mechanical characteristics of the ant Dracula. (Photo credit: L. Brian Stauffer)

From start to finish, the action takes 0.000015 seconds, going from zero to about 320 km / h (198 mph) in a fraction of an instant

The research team also conducted computerized simulations of jaw inserts from different Dracula ant castes to test how the shape and structural characteristics of the jaws affected the power of its fit.

"Our main findings are that the jaws are the fastest of the buccal parts of ants with spring, and the fastest moving animal known today," Larabee said.

This species of ants Dracula is found mainly in Australia, tropical Africa and Southeast Asia. They are rarely found because they live in large underground colonies or within tree trunks. His name was not derived from the moody but from his extremely unusual eating habits. They practice a kind of "non-destructive cannibalism," chewing holes and feeding on the haemolymph ("blood" of insects) from the colony's own pupae and larvae.

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