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.
Trap-Jaw Ants Spring Themselves Out Of Harm's Way
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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. 00:00
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. 00:18
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. 00:44