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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

6/24/2014 (9 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Fearsome ant can open its bear trap-like jaws 180 degrees

There's something new to fear for summertime picnics. The deadly "rocket ant," with manly mandibles and a jaw that can open to 180 degrees is coming to the U.S. Even worse, as the name implies, the pesky insect can launch itself into the air. Yikes!

You wouldn't want to meet this fearsome pest at your next picnic!

You wouldn't want to meet this fearsome pest at your next picnic!

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

6/24/2014 (9 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Rocekt ant, mandibles, insect, U.S.


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) -  Most "trap-jaw" ants belong to the genus Odontomachus, named for their mandibles, or mouthparts.

There are currently four species of trap-jaw ants native to the United States.

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Described as an invasive and particularly aggressive species from South America, the "rocket ant's" scientific name is Odontomachus haematodus. The species was first unofficially recorded in Alabama in 1956.

Most trap-jaw ants belong to the genus Odontomachus, named for their mandibles, or mouthparts, which

Most trap-jaw ants belong to the genus Odontomachus, named for their mandibles, or mouthparts, which are capable of opening 180 degrees.


Measuring up to 9.5 millimeters long, rocket ants are amazing in their ability to control and time the mandibular movement.

If necessary, the ant can forcibly close the mandibles against a surface or other organism and actually propel itself away for up to several inches.

Research conducted by scientists at North Carolina State University, the Mississippi Entomological Museum, the University of California, Davis and Archbold Biological Station has yielded new information about the aggressive insect.

The Mandibles of a Malagasy Trap-jaw Ant - which are strong enough to throw the animal in the air.

The Mandibles of a Malagasy Trap-jaw Ant - which are strong enough to throw the animal in the air.


"The fact that some of these species are spreading is interesting, in part, because these giant ants have managed to expand their territory without anyone noticing," Magdalena Sorger of North Carolina State says. Sorger is also the co-author of a paper describing the ant species.
 
"We know very little about these ants, including how they interact with native ant species in the areas they're invading."

Sorger and her co-authors were interested in the spread of an invasive and particularly aggressive species from South America called Odontomachus haematodus.

The giant trap-jaw ants are spreading across the U.S., researchers warned today.

The giant trap-jaw ants are spreading across the U.S., researchers warned today.


Researchers found that the species has now spread across the Gulf Coast, at least as far east as Pensacola, Florida.

"Haemotodus is particularly interesting because it is larger and more aggressive than other trap-jaw ants in the United States," Sorger says.

Ruginodis was at first thought to be confined to the Orlando region, and points south.

"I found ruginodis in landscaped areas near buildings - outside a mall, outside my hotel - usually in the mulch underneath hedges," Sorger says.

Sorger has confirmed a record of ruginodis more than a hundred miles north of Orlando, in Gainesville.

"The species could have traveled even farther than Gainesville, but no one has looked for it."

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