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Trap-Jaw Ants Break Speed Records With Jaws 166

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the very-small-accelerometers dept.
Ant writes to tell us UC Berkeley News is reporting that a species of Ant native to Central and South America is setting speed records with their jaws. The trap-jaw ant has been clocked closing its mandibles at between 78 and 145 miles per hour, said to be the "fastest self-powered predatory strike in the animal kingdom". In addition to blinding speed the ants have also been taped using their jaws to fling themselves into the air.
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Trap-Jaw Ants Break Speed Records With Jaws

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  • by MECC (8478) * on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:19PM (#15964279)
    The average duration of a strike was a mere 0.13 milliseconds, or 2,300 times faster than the blink of an eye.The average duration of a strike was a mere 0.13 milliseconds, or 2,300 times faster than the blink of an eye.

    Notice that at no time do my jaws leave my head...

  • by alx5000 (896642) <alx5000&alx5000,net> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:20PM (#15964282) Homepage
    It's no wonder, then, that O. bauri ants can launch themselves into the air with a mere snap of their jaws, achieving heights up to 8.3 centimeters and horizontal distances up to 39.6 centimeters.
    I, for one, welcome our new [jaw-propelled] insect overlords!
    Perhaps less impressive is the ants' apparent inability to control the direction of their jumps, or even their orientation when landing.
    Or maybe not...
    • by gad_zuki! (70830)
      >I, for one, welcome our new [jaw-propelled] insect overlords!

      Damn cartoon cliches! Don't make me clamp you!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Gulthek (12570)
        Mousepad: He's using his cliches again.
        Donbot: How many times is that, two or three?
        Clamps: Three.
        Donbot: All right, that's the necessary number of times. That hackneyed writer's going
                            to have a little on-the-job "accident."
    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:40PM (#15964444) Journal
      The researchers suggest that the "popcorn effect" of multiple ants jumping at once may also serve to help them escape by confusing potential predators.


      Sounds to me like they'll ever make it in the US anyway -- disguising yourself as a tast salty morsel is pretty poor mimicry from an evolutionary standpoint.

      Do they come in butter flavor?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lord_Dweomer (648696)
      So THAT'S what they stick inside Mexican Jumping Beans!!!

      (For the humor-impaired, yes I am aware the real reason they jump is because of the moth larva [wikipedia.org] inside it, click it and learn something.

  • ain't no mofo ants on this mofo plane... I got a can of DDT here... no mofo ant is gonna git me...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:22PM (#15964293)
    Anybody check to see if there were banned substances in the ant?
    • by ciaohound (118419)
      No, but he later suggested that the unusually high ratio of distance to time in his mandible sample could be explained by the beer and Jack Daniels shots he had the night before.
  • Moo (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chacham (981) * on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:22PM (#15964298) Homepage Journal
    What i learned from the article.

    1) Black ants can jump.

    The researchers used a high-speed video camera filming at 50,000 frames per second to visualize the mandible movements.

    2) If i want a high-speed camera, become a researcher.

    The jumps were detailed at a relatively slower 3,000 frames per second.

    3) Jumping is slower than eating.

    The average duration of a strike was a mere 0.13 milliseconds, or 2,300 times faster than the blink of an eye.

    4) Blinking is slower than eating.

    Yet, the researchers note that even when an ant lands on its back or head, the insect is so light that it can still walk away no worse for wear.

    5) These ants are light headed.
    • White ants (Score:5, Funny)

      by hc5duke (930493) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:34PM (#15964386)
      1) Black ants can jump.

      Yes, but white ants have sound fundamentals, and they are deceptively fast [blogspot.com]. It has been reported that with advancements in genetic engineering [time.com], Chinese ants will soon be just as good.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by noidentity (188756)

      Yet, the researchers note that even when an ant lands on its back or head, the insect is so light that it can still walk away no worse for wear.

      Rather, the insect is so small that strong legs won't contribute much to its overall body mass; making the insect as large as a human would render all of the above impossible, and even if it did get in the air at the scaled height, it'd smash into a puddle of ant guts when it landed. Leg strengh = size squared; body mass = size cubed.

  • I for one (Score:2, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560)
    welcome our insectoid jaw-flapping overlords.

    And I mean it, too. With yaps like that, they'll be stars of international politics in no time flat.
  • by nick13245 (681899)
    This ant reminds me of some girls I know...
  • Unless you don't consider patent lawyers part of the animal kingdom.

  • Jaw-jumping (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:24PM (#15964308)
    So this is like rocket-jumping in Quake, right?
  • Pound for pound, fleas have the largest "members" in the animal kingdom. /the more you know
    • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:43PM (#15964467)
      Pound for pound, fleas have the largest "members" in the animal kingdom.

      Anyone else uncomfortable with the phrases "pound for pound" and "largest member" being used in the same sentence?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by debilo (612116)
        Anyone else uncomfortable with the phrases "pound for pound" and "largest member" being used in the same sentence?

        Not me. It's comments like those that made me get a Slashdot account.
    • by airuck (300354) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:04PM (#15964629)
      Entomologist have a wealth of stories to tell. One of my favortites is traumatic insemination [pnas.org] in bed bugs.

      The bed bug, Cimex lectularius, has a unique mode of copulation termed "traumatic" insemination [Carayon, J. (1966) in Monograph of the Cimicidae, ed. Usinger, R. (Entomol. Soc. Am., Philadelphia), pp. 81-167] during which the male pierces the female's abdominal wall with his external genitalia and inseminates into her body cavity [Carayon, J. (1966) in Monograph of the Cimicidae, ed. Usinger, R. (Entomol. Soc. Am., Philadelphia), pp. 81-167]. Under controlled natural conditions, traumatic insemination was frequent and temporally restricted. We show for the first time, to our knowledge, that traumatic insemination results in (i) last-male sperm precedence, (ii) suboptimal remating frequencies for the maintenance of female fertility, and (iii) reduced longevity and reproductive success in females. Experimental females did not receive indirect benefits from multiple mating. We conclude that traumatic insemination is probably a coercive male copulatory strategy that results in a sexual conflict of interests.
  • At that picnic last weekend, I had no idea where it vanished to.
  • by Chacham (981) *
    What's the wpm of their yappers?

  • Perhaps we should be considering Trapjaw Internet protocol as an alternative to RFC 1149 [faqs.org]? There have been next to no improvements in that protocol - I think it's time...

  • by shoolz (752000) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:46PM (#15964484) Homepage
    It was reported in 2004 that Shrimp have the fastest 'kick' [berkeley.edu].
    • by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:54PM (#15964546) Journal
      It does. Certain species of the mantis shrimp are able to strike at a speed of up to 23m/s, whereas the range listed here is 35m/s to 65m/s.

      The mantis shrimp is able to manage an acceleration of 10,500g and achieve a force of 1500N at impact. I wonder what the acceleration and force are for this ant. Any physics experts want to chime in?
      • by rts008 (812749)
        TFA states that:
        "They found that the jaws, used to capture prey and to defend the ant from harm, accelerate at 100,000 times the force of gravity, with each jaw generating forces exceeding 300 times the insect's body weight. The ants in this study had body masses ranging from 12.1 to 14.9 milligrams."

        100,000 G's is pretty impressive IMHO. I think I'd have to fall into the sun to even come NEAR that, and I'm a fatboy-geek! (wouldn't work on earth- air resistence would limit me to 125-140 mph, I remember from
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ogewo (652234)
        Let's keep in mind that the mantis strike is done in water. Any way to estimate what the speed would be above water? I imagine it would be a closer race.
    • by chill (34294)
      Read your own link. The trap-jaw ant is mentioned in that article.

      "Other animals with fast feeding strikes are the trap-jaw ant, at 17 meters per second, and the much smaller nematocysts of the hydra, which accelerate four times faster but achieve much lower speeds."
    • I just love this little guy, an ant/bee like society and a deadly weapon!

      It is thought that when the bubble implodes a very small region momentarily reaches temperatures of several thousand kelvins, comparable to the temperature of the outer layer of the Sun.

      Wiki's got more cool info [wikipedia.org]
      Jonah HEX
  • The best part is watching them flop on the ground like Kid Syndrome being ejected from Mr. Incredible's car.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      That's INCREDIBOY!
    • by UttBuggly (871776)
      Squeeze me...baking powder; the name (at that point in the movie) was Incredi-Boy!

      Later, he was just Syndrome...hence the big "S" on his costume.

      And remember...super ant or not....NO CAPES!
  • by Zildy (32593) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:55PM (#15964548)
    Let's hope they can retract their tongue at record breaking speeds.
  • by OnTheWay (529387) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @02:56PM (#15964558)
    Check out the BBC DVD series "Life in the Undergrowth", with the incomparable David Attenborough. The biggest problem with the series is that, at 5 episodes, it's far too short.
  • the record when she closed her jaws!
  • by kike (58542) <.henry_ficher. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:03PM (#15964620)
    "The trap-jaw ant has been clocked closing its mandibles at between 78 and 145 miles per hour"

    Shouldn't that be in bites per second?

    ----------
    Still here
    http://blogoscare.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
    • KBPS (Score:2, Funny)

      by kn0tw0rk (773805)
      Only if they can then open their mouth as fast.
      Then you could have a killa-bites-per-second.
  • by demigod (20497) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:11PM (#15964686)
    I guess a jellyfish stings doesn't count as a self-powered predatory strike then. Why?

    http://neurophilosophy.wordpress.com/2006/05/09/th e-sting-of-the-jellyfish-natures-fastest-cellular- mechanism/ [wordpress.com]

    • by flosofl (626809)
      I guess a jellyfish stings doesn't count as a self-powered predatory strike then. Why?
      I think they are referring to physical movement, not a cellular processes that looks to be an automatic response to stimuli.
      • by khallow (566160)

        I think they are referring to physical movement, not a cellular processes that looks to be an automatic response to stimuli.

        The jaws of the trap jaw ants are automatic response too. And physical movement doesn't require any sort of intent on the part of the creatures. Let us not forget that there's a lot of people out there who think that anything dumber than a human is just automatically responding to stimuli.
    • by rnelsonee (98732)
      For what it's worth, that article doesn't mention the speed of the strike, only the acceleration - although 700ns is pretty quick, it doesn't mean it's moving fast if it's only moving 1e-9 meters. Last I heard, jellyfish strike a 2 m/s. Of course, that was in 9th grade biology, and my teacher was crazy as a loon...
  • by binarybum (468664) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:16PM (#15964722) Homepage
    After watching those videos, I have retracted my previously firm belief that ninjas are mammals. Arthropods can obviously be ninjas as well.

      In that first video that ant disappears from the site of the ant that is watching him, trims his toenails and files his tax return in mid air before landing directly behind his unsuspecting neighbor all in less than a second. Amazing.
    • After watching those videos, I have retracted my previously firm belief that ninjas are mammals.

      But this could change the very definition of what a "ninja" is, I mean we don't want certain circumstances where a Pirate could be called a "ninja" by definition, do we? It could upend several theories and debates as discussed on various forums & IRC channels!
    • by antdude (79039)
      All worker ants are females. Only some winged alates are males. All they do is mate and then die when it is time. Some life for males, huh?
  • by djupedal (584558) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @03:24PM (#15964795)
    "...fastest self-powered predatory strike..."

    So, you've met my x-wife and lived to tell about it, eh?
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)
      the difference here is, the self-powered strike isn't powered by the souls of the damned, so in your case it really isn't "self powered" >:-P
  • has been clocked closing its mandibles at between 78 and 145 miles per hour

    While reading this story, all I could think about were the talking heads on Fox News...

  • C'mon folks, how can we welcome our new overlords if they don't have lasers or rockets strapped to their bodies? Are they heat-seaking? Where's the pizazz?

    Here's what I think we should do:

    1. Find the worlds fastest predatory strike
    2. Strap a rocket and laser to the animal/bug/lawyer/software_company which posesses it
    3. ???
    4. Profit!!!




    (that was my first, 1-2-3 profit post... I feel a part of the community now)
  • Wrong, Wrong, Wrong. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:14PM (#15965100)
    Cnidarians (i.e. Jellyfish & Sea Anemones) have stinging cells which are much faster. These cells, called nematocysts, are the fastest things in the animal kingdom. The stingers launch out at speeds well in excess of 300 miles per hour.
  • Sheila Patek has you beat hands down.
  • About these ants (Score:5, Informative)

    by G4from128k (686170) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @04:53PM (#15965386)
    Trap jaw ants do live in the wild in the southern U.S -- I've studied them in Austin Texas. They're not easy to find as the colonies are very small and the individuals tend to be quite reclusive. They are largish ants (about about 1 cm in length), dark in color, and tend to be fairly slow moving when foraging in leaf litter and under rocks. They walk around with their jaws cocked open and one or two pairs of trigger hairs in the mouth fire the jaw. As the article states a snap of the jaw impales the prey and then the ant stings it. If they fire the jaw on a solid object, the ant goes flying. Either way the jaw emits a loud 'snap' when triggered. Despite the sharp hair-trigger jaw and sting, these ants tend to fall into the "fierce in their nest, but timid in the wild" range of ant behavior.

    As amazing as the trap jaw design is, these ants are not unique. The trap jaw concept evolved at least twice in ants. Two collections of ant species on widely separated arms of the ant family tree use a trap jaw mechanism for capturing prey. They share the same jaw design, but have very different head shapes. Ants of genus Odontomachus (the ones in the video) have an odd-shaped lumpy cylindrical head. Those on the other side of the ant family tree (genus Daceton and Strumigenys) have a distinct heart-shaped head. Species of both types occur in the U.S. The Strumigenys that I've seen in the U.S. are very small (about 2 mm) and thrive on similarly tiny creatures found in rotting logs, leaf litter, etc.
  • ANTS On the Plane. Jumping over a SHARK. With freaking LAZERS on their heads.

    Starring:
    The One Ant: Keanu Reeves
    The Shark: Dennis Hopper
    And Sandra Bullock as herself.
  • ..... I'm getting guard Ants.
  • by argStyopa (232550) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @06:57PM (#15966237) Journal
    ...these scientists have never seen my g/f's response when she sees my paycheck in my hand.

    "fastest self-powered predatory strike in the animal kingdom" my ass.
  • Imagine if these ants evolved wings like some of their cousins. Then they could glide after trap-jaw jumping increasing their range by 2 or 3 times.
  • by StikyPad (445176) on Wednesday August 23, 2006 @07:08PM (#15966306) Homepage
    According to TFA, they calculated the speed by using a high speed camera, and calculated that the ant closed its jaws on the bait in 130 microseconds. The record for opening a jaw though, at 110 microseconds after seeing the "bait," is still held by Paris Hilton.

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