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
MAR 03, 2020
Neuroscience
MAR 03, 2020
Scientists Use Electrical Pulses to Switch Consciousness On and Off in Monkeys
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found that it’s possible to wake a monkey out of a deepl ...
APR 05, 2020
Plants & Animals
APR 05, 2020
Seven New Peacock Spider Species Discovered in Australia
Animal researchers spend much of their time outdoors as they explore the world in the name of science. That said, it may ...
APR 14, 2020
Plants & Animals
APR 14, 2020
Why Are Bats So Resistant to Viruses?
Bats are some of the most infamous carriers of zoonotic viruses, which are viruses capable of spreading between both ani ...
APR 14, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
APR 14, 2020
How Deer Antlers Can Teach Us About Cancer Treatment
Deer antlers grow faster than cancerous tumors.
MAY 08, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAY 08, 2020
Scientists to Spiders: How Do You Handle Sticky (Nanofiber) Situation?
The term "biomimicry" describes the models and methods harnessed by scientists to imitate natural element ...
MAY 15, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
MAY 15, 2020
It Only Takes One Gene For Virgin Birth in Honey Bees
Cape honey bees are found in South Africa, and while they look similar, they are very different from other subspecies of ...
Loading Comments...