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Science & Technology

Meet the fastest animal on Earth: Dracula ants snap their jaws shut at an incredible 200mph

Wednesday 12/December/2018 - 10:17 AM
File photo
File photo
Edited by: Yara Sameh
Meet the fastest animal on Earth - and it is not a cheetah، daily mail reported.

The Dracula ant can snap its jaws at an incredible 200mph (320kph)، which is 5،000 times faster than the blink of an eye.

The tiny creature، just a few millimetres in size، has been officially named the fastest moving living animal، beating the cheetah، whose record running speed is 60mph (96kph).

Dracula ants، found in Africa، Australia and south east Asia، use their jaws like a catapult، pushing them together to build up tension before they fly apart.

The force created is strong enough to knock out the centipedes the ants hunt so they can drag them back to their nest to feed to their young.

It is also a powerful fighting move، which can slam a rival ant against the wall of a log.

While they are less headline-grabbing than cheetahs، invertebrates like termites and ants have the fastest movements in the animal kingdom because of their spring-loaded jaws.

Scientists confirmed the Dracula ant is the very fastest using cutting-edge video technology.

Professor Andrew Suarez، a co-author of the research from the University of Illinois، said: 'These ants are fascinating as their mandibles are very unusual.

'Their powerful jaws work like a mousetrap، except the latch and spring mechanism are all in one.

The ants use this motion to smack other arthropods، likely stunning them، smashing them against a tunnel wall or pushing them away.'

Dracula ants are known as 'snap-jaw' ants instead of the 'trap-jaw' ants which slam their jaws shut to eat tasty insects.

Instead of pushing their jaws together، they slide one across the other in a motion which takes only 23 microseconds.

After confirming the ants were the fastest، scientists figured out how their mandibles، or jaws، work. Their video footage shows ants push their jaws together for up to 3.7 seconds to 'spring-load' them before they strike.

The 'catapult' motion is perfect for the narrow tunnels the ants live in within hollowed out logs، as it can incapacitate another ant or insect prey.

It is possible because the ants' flat jaws are much more bendy، researchers discovered، than those of biting ants.

Lead author Fredrick Larabee، from Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History، said: 'Our main findings are that snap-jaws are the fastest of the spring-loaded ant mouthparts، and the fastest currently known animal movement.

'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.'

The way in which Dracula ants' work is compared by experts to how humans snap their fingers.

The study، published in the journal Royal Society Open Science، states: 'The only other animal with comparable performance are termites in the genus Termes، whose soldier caste have a similar mandible snapping mechanism that occurs in less than 0.025 milliseconds.'

The ants that drink the blood of their young
Dracula ants were given their name for their habit of feasting on the blood of their larvae.

This does not kill the larvae، just drains blood.

Dracula ants were discovered in 1994.

At 200mph، their jaw motion is three times faster than that of trap-jaw ants، the previous record holders.

The ants that drink the blood of their young
Dracula ants were given their name for their habit of feasting on the blood of their larvae.

This does not kill the larvae، just drains blood.

Dracula ants were discovered in 1994.

At 200mph، their jaw motion is three times faster than that of trap-jaw ants، the previous record holders.

HOW DO ANTS USE MATHS TO BUILD 'LIVING BRIDGES'?
Several species of ant build 'living bridges' made of their own bodies to traverse small gaps.

Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology showed in 2015 that up to 20 per cent of a colony may be locked into bridges on a route at any time.

This is when an individual ant may run a 'bridging' algorithm.

An ant can tell how many times it has been stampeded by previous ants and use this to judge the width of the bridge.

When this hits a certain number، an ant - judging that too many members of the colony may now occupy bridges - may rejoin the march.

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