These Creatures Have The World's Fastest Strike

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These Creatures Have The World's Fastest Strike

With powerful jaws that snap shut 2,300 times faster than the blink of an eye, the trap-jaw ant holds the title of world's fastest strike. Their jaws are so fast, in fact, that the tiny creatures even use them as a form of conveyance: just by aiming at the ground, their snapping jaws can catapult them more than 20 times their body length. This can be a handy skill in dangerous situations, since it helps them quickly escape predators. Entire swarms of trap-jaw ants can fend off intruders this way, since a mob of tiny insects popping all over the place is a frightening sight. But how do such small creatures generate such incredible power? Instead of simply contracting and relaxing different jaw muscles like other animals, they use a spring-loaded catch mechanism. Like pulling back a bow to fire an arrow, the ants can store up energy in their jaws before they strike. Once they're ready, trigger hairs on each side let the ant "fire" their mandibles the moment they touch their target.

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Key Facts to Know

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    Trap-jaw ants can snap their jaws shut at around 134 miles per hour in order to repel potential habitat invaders. According to research, this action can also help to propel them out of danger from predators. 0:00

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    To prove this, researchers used ant lions, predatory creatures that create sloped pits in the sand, hide at the bottom, and wait until their prey slide in before snatching them. They placed each trap-jaw ant into a sand-filled container that had one ant-lion hiding in a trap. 0:18

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    Out of 114 trials, 15% of the trap-jaws were able to spring out of harm's way with their mandibles. When scientists glued their jaws shut, their survival rate declined by nearly five times. 0:44

Ants Clean Their Antennae With Built-In Combs

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Ants Clean Their Antennae With Built-In Combs

Ants need to be fastidious about cleaning their antennae. If they're too gunked up, the sensitive organs won't be able to lead them to food or communicate with other ants. In 2015, scientists at Cambridge University got close enough to learn how Camponotus rufifemur ants kept their antennae spotless: they used a small, lobster-claw-like structure on their front legs that's lined with three different types of hairs. They called these hairs "bristles," "comb," and "brush." An antennae passes through them in that order, leaving foreign particles behind.

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Key Facts to Know

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    Ants use their antennae to find food, communicate, and follow the pheromone trails of other ants. 0:02

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    An ant's antenna-cleaning structure has three types of hairs: the bristles, the comb, and the brush. 0:24

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    See close-up footage of an ant's cleaning structure removing particles from its antenna: 0:37

Birds Get High Off Ants?

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Birds Get High Off Ants?

To keep themselves clean, birds will engage in "anting," where ants crawl all over their bodies. The formic acid that ants secrete help keep parasite away. However, birds have been known to rub the ants on themselves just because it feels good, and they can get addicted to anting.

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from SciShow

Key Facts to Know

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    Birds allow ants to crawl all over their bodies to help combat parasites. 0:28

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    Millipedes are full of benzoquinones, which is an insecticide many times more toxic than any bug repellent. 1:47

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    Jaguars eat yage, which is a vine that causes intense hallucinations. 2:55

You've Probably Only Ever Seen Lady Ants

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You've Probably Only Ever Seen Lady Ants

All of the ants you've seen in your life, as long as they did not have wings, were female. Queen ants will only give birth to winged male ants (along with virgin queen ants) around once a year. The males and virgin queen ants are called sexuals, as they are the only ants in a colony capable of reproduction.

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Key Facts to Know

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    Ants without wings are all female. 1:08

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    The bullet ant is so named because its sting is so painful, it feels like you've been shot by a gun. 3:49

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    Army ants can develop tusks so large that they cannot feed themselves, and must rely on other ants to place food into their mouths. 5:29

Leafcutter Ants Can Farm

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Leafcutter Ants Can Farm

Leafcutter ants live in the soil, but they crawl up into the canopies of trees. They cut chunks out of the leaves to bring back down to the soil and feed a fungus that produces proteins and sugars. The ants cannot digest the leaves, but can feed on what the fungus produces, essentially making the ants farmers.

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Key Facts to Know

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    Leafcutter ants live in the soil, but forage way up high in the canopies of trees. 0:12

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    Leafcutter ants grow their own crops using chunks of leaves in order to sustain themselves. 1:00

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    Ants have harnessed the microbes to make antibiotics for themselves long before humans did. 1:47