Even the smallest organisms can make it into the big leagues. The first fastest animal movement in the world now belongs to an ant not bigger than the tip of the finger.
Ominously named the Dracula ant (Mystrium Camillae), this tiny shy and modest, an underground predator, enjoys sighing the blood from its own shameless larvae in a practice known as "non destructive cannibalism".
It's also hurt fast. A new study has found that the jaws of this rare and mysterious species can snap down five thousand times faster than blink in the eye.
With the help of a high-speed camera, Smithsonian researchers have now received this remarkable move for the first time.
The mechanism acts like a fingernail, except at a meteorical pace, thousand times faster than what human hands are capable of.
By tapping the tips of his mandibles, the pressure between the jaws of the ant begins to build until it eventually reaches a breakpoint, leaving one of the 3 mandibles free to slip over the other.
From start to finish, the action takes 0.000015 seconds, going from zero to about 320 km / h (198 mph) in a fraction of a moment.
This particular species of Dracula ant has now taken the gold medal to the fastest known vet and the fastest known biological maneuver ever.
The genus Mystrium has been called the "most mysterious group within the bizarre Dracula ants", and researchers are still not sure why this cryptic bog has developed such special mandibles.
Although the animal kingdom when it comes to catching and avoiding predators, speed is extremely important. Today, the fastest known movements are behavior based on hunting and defense, and these rapid traits are commonly seen in arthropods such as mantis prawns, froghoppers and trampacies.
Among these creatures, energy is stored in the muscles and then released via a lock that lets the energy loosen through a kind of elastic spring. By incorporating locks and springs, these animals are rescued from overtime their muscles and it allows beings like the Dracula ant to feed for food and defend themselves against predators in the most effective way.
Even in comparison to other trap-jaws, however Mystrium Dracula marsh ruler highest. At the moment we know at least six lines of ants that have similar power-boosted mandibles, but Mystrium Camillae has a unique morphology that makes it very fast.
Unlike other ants with trap jaws, the mandibles start on these fellows from a closed position and then slide over each other. In addition, the spring and lock mechanisms that allow the jaw to slam shut, embedded in the mandill itself.
This unique structure is probably what gives this genus such a speed. In jaws ants like Odontomachus and Myrmoteras families – where the spring, lock and trigger structure are separated – it takes three to threescore times longer for the jaws to close. And even at the highest speed, this movement is still ten to twenty times slower than what Mystrium camillae is capable of.
The authors of the paper believe that perhaps these special jaws developed with the unique underground habitat of this bog – in the tropics of Southeast Asia and Australia – where open jaws are not really an option.
"Mystrium's feed and nest habits are also limited to limited tunnels in beams and in the ground, and this may favor this form of reinforcement system where the bog can not open the jaws wide as seen in trampolar edges that feed largely in open spaces," the authors suggest .
But we still can not be sure. These creatures are like buried treasure, and more research will be needed if we want to know why they have developed such fast catch jaws.
This study was published in Royal Society Open Science (link not yet available at the time of publication of this article).