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The Secret Life of Acrobatic Ants

The Secret Life of Acrobatic Ants

Ants have long been known to share an important trait with humans: adaptation. New research on a variety of ants called “trap jaw” shows the remarkable ability to have adapted a predatory weapon (the “trap jaw”) as an escape tool as well.

Because of the way their jaws snap shut with great speed (for killing) these ants are able to also use this tremendous force to fly through the air. The mechanism works like this: when an ant snaps its jaw closed against another surface (for instance, the ground), the resulting impact sends it airborne.

While entomologists have long known about this ant super-power, recent researchers in Florida discovered that the flying ability isn’t just for fun.

These ants use their specialized, built-in jaw power as a means to fly, and have adapted to use flying as a means of escape.

Controlled experiments conducted by Frederick J. Larabee, a University of Illinois grad student, showed that the flying ability helps these ants evade the traps of an ant nemesis, the ant lions. Working under adviser Andrew V. Suarez, Mr. Larabee reported in the journal PLOS One. In his lab investigations, he noted that about half the time the trap-jaw ants were threated they scurried up walls, but in fifteen percent of cases they employed their flying super powers to escape the clutches of the lion ants.

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