DEC 12, 2018 6:10 PM PST

Dracula Ant's Bite Recognized as the Fastest Animal Movement on Record

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Researchers are astounded after discovering what they claim to be the fastest-known animal movement on record. The findings, recently uncovered by researchers from the University of Illinois, appear this week in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Meet the Dracula ant. It currently sports the fastest-known animal movement on record.

Image Credit: Adrian Smith

As it would seem, the sharp mandibles of a Dracula ant (Mystrium camillae) can snap together at speeds exceeding 90 meters per second; for non-metric folk, that’s around 200 miles per hour. Even more astonishingly, the mandibles achieve these speeds in less than 0.000015 seconds.

These numbers are seemingly unbelievable, but they are indeed genuine. Given the circumstances, the Dracula Ant snaps its mandibles shut more than 5000 times faster than the blink of an eye and up to three times faster than the previous record-holder for this particular title: the snap of a trap-jaw ant.

The speed of the snap is so quick that the researchers needed high-speed cameras recording at approximately 480,000 frames per second (FPS) to capture it. X-ray imaging helped the researchers study the anatomy and computer simulations later helped the researchers better understand the mechanisms at work behind these incredible speeds.

"These ants are fascinating as their mandibles are very unusual," explained study lead author Andrew Suarez, an entomology professor at the University of Illinois. "Even among ants that power-amplify their jaws, the Dracula ants are unique: Instead of using three different parts for the spring, latch and lever arm, all three are combined in the mandible."

Related: Watch a team of ants create a bridge from themselves to cross a gap

Dracula ants use an entirely different method than trap-jaw ants for snapping their mandibles together at such high rates of speed. While the latter snap their mandibles together from the open position, Dracula ants snap their mandibles from the closed position, gradually pressing them together to generate spring tension that eventually gives.

According to Suarez, Dracula ants depend on this behavior for close combat with foes and prey. The quick snap smacks and stuns the enemy, enabling it to be transported back to the colony safely where it can be fed to other ants and their larvae.

"Our main findings are that snap-jaws are the fastest of the spring-loaded ant mouthparts, and the fastest currently known animal movement," added study co-author Fredrick J. Larabee from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. "By comparing the jaw shape of snapping ants with biting ants, we also learned that it only took small changes in shape for the jaws to evolve a new function: acting as a spring."

Related: Worker ants intelligently regulate tunnel-digging efforts to avoid jams

The speeds associated with the Dracula ant’s bite are indeed impressive, but more research is needed to understand why they evolved this function and how it’s used. It should be interesting to see what future studies bring in this department.

Source: University of Illinois

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 22, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 22, 2019
Ever Wonder What Happens Inside a Clam's Shell?
Most people think of clams as a gooey blob inside of a two-piece shell, but there’s actually a lot more going on inside that shell that you might com...
DEC 25, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 25, 2019
Perfect for Urban Farming: Gene-Edited Tomatoes that Grow like Grapes
A team of researchers from New York’s Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have created a new strain of tomatoes that can grow from bushes rather than vines...
DEC 31, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 31, 2019
There's More to a Cat's Whiskers Than You Think
Cats may be enjoyable pets, but their true roots go back to incredibly predacious creatures with bodies that have been evolutionarily adapted for hunting p...
JAN 31, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 31, 2020
Medicinal Marijuana May Not Aid Sleep Problems Long Term
A new study published in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care suggests that medical marijuana may not aid sleep problems resulting from chronic p...
FEB 07, 2020
Health & Medicine
FEB 07, 2020
Could False Cannabis Information Online Be Harmful To Public Health?
Under federal law, cannabis is illegal and considered a class 1 drug, meaning that it is perceived to have no medical value, with a high potential for user...
FEB 11, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 11, 2020
How the World's Fastest Cat Compares to the World's Fastest Dog
Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animal; their powerful hind legs give them incredible launching power and their stretchy spines provide a massi...
Loading Comments...