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Acrobatic Ants

September 27, 2006

An ant has broken a world record for speed.


A new meaning for motor mouth. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Trap-jaw ants’ jaws now hold the record for the fastest-moving self-propelled body part in the animal kingdom. But it’s what they do with those super-speed jaws that’s really interesting, says University of Illinois entomologist Andy Suarez.

ANDY SUAREZ (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign):
These ants will use their mandibles not only to capture food, but to propel themselves off the ground, to escape threat or predators.

They do it by cocking their jaws open against the ground and then snapping them shut at close to 100 miles per hour. That’s enough force for some impressive flips and serious hangtime. Suarez says the ants probably first evolved the fast jaws to capture prey, but then repurposed the skill to escape becoming prey.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.