Trap-Jaw Ants Soaring to an Escape
A trap-jaw ant is named after its “spring-loaded mandible,” that when snapped shut can easily kill its prey. What is even more interesting to scientists at the University of Illinois however, is that they jaw can also be used as a predatory weapon
When a snap-jaw ant quickly closes their jaw against a hard surface (such as the ground), the reaction sends them flying. According to the University of Illinois, this ability allows them to escape their predators, ant lions. Ant lions, are known to wait at the bottom of pits they have dug as anticipate their prey to come sliding down the pit wall.
The trap-jaw ants jumping behavior was identified nearly 100 years ago, however, it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that Dr, Suarez and Sheila N. Patek acknowledged that this jump is an escape attempt. Mr. Larabee, a graduate student at the University of Illinois, ran some controlled experiments in a lab after collecting the trap-jaw ants and ant lions to test their defense. This was the first time that experiments like these have been run.
Mr. Larabee concluded that 50% of the time, the trap-jaw ants escaped the ant lion by running up the pit wall, and 15% of the time they hurled themselves away by snapping their jaws shut. He reported that his findings have added to existing studies, showing that this “behavioral trait evolved for predation” and has a “secondary use: escape.”
Have you ever seen a trap-jaw?