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Trap-jaw ants’ lightning-fast bite should rip their heads apart. Here’s why it doesn’t.

Moving a thousand times faster than the blink of an eye, a trapping-jaw ant’s spring-loaded jaws catch the insect’s prey by surprise and can also fling the ant into the air if it points its jaws at the ground. Now scientists have revealed how the ant’s jaws can snap shut at breakneck speed without snapping from the force.

In a new study published Thursday (July 21) in the Journal of Experimental Biology (opens in new tab)a team of biologists and engineers studied a species called the fang-jaw ant Odontomachus brunneus, native to parts of the United States, Central America, and the West Indies. To build up strength for their lightning-fast bites, the ants first spread their jaws apart so they form a 180-degree angle and “cock” them against the latches in their heads. Huge muscles attached to each jaw by a tendon-like cord pull the jaws into place and then flex to build up a store of elastic energy. This bend is so extreme that it bends the sides of the ant’s head, causing it to bend inward, the team found. When the ant strikes, its jaws open and this stored energy is released immediately, causing the jaws to snap together.

Trap-jaw ants’ lightning-fast bite should rip their heads apart. Here’s why it doesn’t. Source link Trap-jaw ants’ lightning-fast bite should rip their heads apart. Here’s why it doesn’t.

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