Pull the cheetah and the falcon pastor, have a new contender for the fastest animal title on Earth: Dracula ant. Scientists have found that the little tropical insect can touch its mandibles up to 90 meters per second (more than 200 miles an hour), which is the fastest movement of animals.
Ants use the explosive movement to attack, stun and kill the prey, which then flies into their larvae.
"They walk underground, and if they encounter something like a centipede or termite, they can puncture them with a mandible to kill or stun them," says Andrew Suarez, a biology professor at the University of Illinois who runs the work, "They can do it hitting them to defuse it, and then returning it back to the nest.
The species, Mystrium camillae, it is already known to have highly specialized accessories. Scientists, however, managed to establish the exact speed of motion only with the emergence of high-speed video technology over the past 10 years. Scientists also use X-ray imaging technology to monitor anatomy of ants in three dimensions to better understand how movement works.
Observations have shown that Dracula ants feed their mandibles by pushing peaks together, spring-loaded with internal stresses. In the end, when a jaw slides through the other, each is released, in a movement of the people that press their fingers.
The movement of the Dracula ant is different from what is seen in the ants that previously thought they had the fastest jaws in the world. These ants start from an open position and suddenly close as a mouse trap.
"Even among the ants that strengthen their jaws, Dracula's ants are unique," says Adrian Smith of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, who co-authored the study. "Instead of using three different parts for the spring, the lever and the lever, all three combine into a mandible.
Dwarf ants are mostly found in the tropics in Africa and Asia. They live in large colonies underground or inside tree trunks, so they are rarely seen. Their name derives from unusual eating habits that include a form of non-destructive cannibalism. Adult ants are unable to process solid food; instead they feed their prey with their larvae and then chew holes in the larvae and drink their blood. Scientists call the agreement a "social stomach".
In the future, the team plans to make more detailed observations of ants in action in their natural environment. "Their biology, how they captivate and protect their nests, still need a description," says Smith.
The findings are published in the Royal Society Open Science Magazine.