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m3n4.net July 21, 2018


Scientists discover new species of exploding ant

23 April 2018, 12:56 | Vera Richards

Exploding behavior of C. explodens in experimental setting with a weaver ant. Alexey Kopchinskiy

Exploding behavior of C. explodens in experimental setting with a weaver ant.                  Alexey Kopchinskiy

That was until an interdisciplinary research team from Austria, Thailand and Brunei came together led by their shared fascination with these insects and their extraordinary mechanism of self-sacrifice (also called autothysis) in 2014. This toxic liquid holds off the enemy or kills it. Only the minor workers are able to rupture their body wall. And scientists have just identified a new species that lives on trees in Borneo.

Curiously enough, while these ants' peculiar behaviour was first mentioned in distant 1916, no new species have been formally described since 1935, due to insufficient evidence.

Ants, as they are - and not to irk our animal-loving readers out there - very high on the list of crap idiot animals that everybody hates.

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As mentioned before, there are several exploding ant species previously thought to belong to the single cylindrica group, but this is no longer the case. The body of C. explodens is filled with glandular sacs containing a toxic, yellow secretion. These ants will not explode for any old reason.

Alice Laciny, an entomologist with the Natural History Museum in Vienna, and project researcher told National Geographic that the lethal goo smells bizarrely similar to curry.

Ants are capable of wonderful prosocial behaviours, such as creating bridges and life rafts out of their bodies, collecting wounded comrades from the battlefield, and even administering medical care. It is only the minor workers, all sterile females, who will sacrifice their lives by exploding in order to protect the bigger members of the colony.

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Being a "model species" means that the ant will serve as an important navigation point in future studies on exploding ants.

The team noticed that this species was "particularly prone to self-sacrifice when threatened by enemy arthropods, as well as intruding researchers".

Other ant species also use this unbelievable morphological property to defend their nest. The major workers of the Colobopsis explodens tribe have enlarged heads used to plug nest entrances to keep out invaders. This new paper now sets the groundwork for future research, including studies of their behaviour, chemical profile, microbiology, anatomy, and evolution.

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