Even the smallest organisms can reach the big leagues. The world's fastest animal in the world now belongs to an ant that is no bigger than the tip of your finger.
Forever we call an ant of Dracula (Mystrium camillae), this small species is a shy and elusive, subterranean predator who enjoys sucking the blood from his own miserable larvae in a practice known as "non-destructive cannibalism".
This is also badly quick. A new study found that the jaws of this rare and mysterious species could close five thousand times faster than the blink of the eye.
Using a high-speed camera, scientists at Smithson have already captured this remarkable movement in action for the first time.
The mechanism handles fingers, except at a meteoric pace, a thousand times faster than the human hands are capable of.
By pushing the tips of their mandibles, the pressure between the jaws of the ants begins to build until it finally reaches a break point, eventually releasing one of the three mandibles so that it slides over the other side.
From start to finish, the action takes 0.000015 seconds, from zero to about 320 km / h (198 mph) for one minute.
This particular kind of Dracula ant has already taken a gold medal for the fastest known animal gadget and the fastest known biological maneuver ever.
The genus Mystrium is called "the most mysterious group within the strange ants of Dracula," and scientists are still not sure why this mysterious ant has developed such special mandibles.
Although in the animal kingdom, when it comes to capturing prey and avoiding predators, speed is extremely important. Today, the fastest-known moves are hunting and defense-based behavior, and these rapid shocks are often seen in arthropods such as martini shrimp, frog and ants.
Among these creatures, energy is stored in the muscles and then released by a latch, allowing energy to loosen through some kind of elastic spring. By incorporating locks and springs, these animals are saved from overloading their muscles and this allows creatures like the Dracula ant to feed for food and protect against predators in the most effective way possible.
Even compared to other ants, Mystrium Dracula ant reigns supreme. Currently, we know at least six ants of breeds that have similar enhancement to mandibula, but Mystrium camillae there is a unique morphology that makes it particularly fast.
Unlike other hooded ants, these boys' mandibles start from a closed position and then slide against each other. Moreover, the spring and latch mechanisms that allow the jaw to close are embedded in the mandible itself.
This unique structure is perhaps what gives these generations such a speed. In ants with hoods like Odontomachus and Myrmoteras clusters – where the structures of the spring, the caps and the trigger are separated – take three to sixty times longer to close the jaws. And even at peak speed, this movement is ten to twenty times slower than that Mystrium camillae is able to.
The authors of the article believe that these special jaws develop along with the unique underground habitat of this ant – in the tropics of Southeast Asia and Australia – where open jaws are not really an option.
"Mystrium's eating and nesting habits are also limited to closed tunnels in logs and soil, and this may favor this type of amplification system where the anthill can not open its jaws extensively, as seen in ants, spaces," the authors .
But we're still not sure. These creatures are like a buried treasure and more research will be needed if we want to find out why they have developed such expeditious traps.
This study was published in The royal society discovers science (the link is not yet live at the time of posting this article).