Berkeley biologist discovers speed-munching ants
By Erica Holt, Bay City News Service
August 22, 2006
A small ant native to Central and South America can clamp its
jaws as fast as 145 mph, quicker than a mantis shrimp, the former
record-holder of the swiftest moving body part in the animal kingdom,
according to a study released Monday led by a University of California
at Berkeley biologist.
UC Berkeley biologist Sheila Patek led research on the tiny 12
to 15 milligram trap-jaw ants. The study found the ant uses muscles
in its head to hold its mandibles open and can snap them closed
at a speed of 78 to 145 mph, quicker than the blink of an eye.
The trap-jaw ants use their jaws to launch themselves into the
air for defense and to capture prey, according to the study, which
shows the ants can catapult themselves as far as 44 feet high
and 132 feet horizontally.
Patek's team used high-speed video to monitor trap-jaw ants collected
from Costa Rica and found each bite generates a force more than
300 times the insect's body weight.
The report was released Monday in the online edition of Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences.
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