Ants set the record for the fastest movement on the planet

Ants set the record for the fastest movement on the planet
Ants set the record for the fastest movement on the planet

The mandibles of African ants are compressed at a speed of 89 meters per second.


Scientists from the University of Illinois used a high-speed camera to capture the incredibly fast jaw movements of Mystrium camillae ants, also called "draculae". This allowed them not only to determine speed, but also to resolve the dispute about why these ants keep their mandibles closed. Their work is published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

M. camillae are found in Africa and Southeast Asia. Their colonies exist deep underground or in tree trunks, so they are not often found in the wild. They got the nickname "Dracula" because of the unusual way of eating. Adults are not able to absorb solid food, so they feed their victims to the larvae, and then make them through those small holes from which they suck blood, thus obtaining nutrients.

Biologists have long wondered why M. camillae ants keep their mandibles closed. By studying their movements using X-rays and high-speed cameras capable of recording 480,000 frames per second, the researchers answered this question.


© Royal Society Open Science

The fact is that their jaws work like a spring and in their movement resemble the click of fingers. Mandibles are very flexible, but they constantly tend to take a curved shape. Pressing the tips together, the ants create pressure between the jaws, which, at first increasing, is quickly released at the moment one mandible slides against another. The whole process takes place in 0, 000015 seconds, while the jaws accelerate to 320 kilometers per hour.

© Ant Lab

The authors do not know why such a mechanism developed, but they suggest that it has something to do with the underground way of life of arthropods. They note that there are currently six known species of ants that are also famous for their swift mandibles, but none of them match the speed of M. camillae. What's more, the study's lead author, Adrian Smith, believes that faster species of ants may also be found in the rainforests of Eurasia.

Earlier, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology (USA) named the fastest creature on the planet. It turned out to be the simplest Spirostomum ambiguum, reaching a length of only four millimeters, while it moves with an acceleration of up to 200 meters per second squared.

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