Fredrick Larabee

Fredrick Larabee / Smithsonian
August 30, 2017
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3 D image of ant head and jaw
Fredrick Larabee / Smithsonian

For clues into how Myromoteras executes its power-amplified strike, scientists examined the ants first under a microscope, then using micro computed tomography (micro-CT), a three-dimensional imaging system that uses X-rays to visualize the internal structures of small specimens. Their observations allowed them to piece together a model of how the jaws likely works. Researchers detected a feature of the ant’s mandible joint that allows its jaws to lock open. Before the strike, a lobe on the back of the ant’s head compresses, likely acting as a spring loaded with potential energy. Then a fast-contracting trigger muscle releases the jaws and the stored energy, executing the strike.

Image by Fredrick Larabee / Smithsonian