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Ant Jaws

August 31, 2017

To catch fast prey, a type of ant has high-speed, spring-loaded jaws.

Transcript

Myrmoteras ant. Steve Shattuck

Myrmoteras ant. (Steve Shattuck)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Survival of the springiest. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Springtails are tiny insect-like creatures with spring-loaded tails that fold against their bodies; when threatened, they release the tails, which snap downward, flinging the springtails to safety in just eighteen-thousandths of a second. But in the Journal of Experimental Biology, Smithsonian researcher Fredrick Larabee and his colleagues report that Myromoteras ants have spring-loaded jaws that snap shut in less than one thousandth.

FREDRICK LARABEE (Smithsonian Museum of Natural History):

Their strikes occur in about half a millisecond, which is seven hundred times faster than the blink of an eye.

HIRSHON:

Allowing the ants to snag a springtail, before the springtail’s spring has fully sprung. The spring-based arms race highlights how nature sometimes comes up with similar solutions to different problems, and may also inspire new inventions from human engineers.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon