There are over sixteen thousand different species of ant on this planet. Of course, this number only includes those ants which science has documented. Despite their tiny heads, ants are smart relative to other insects, and their social behavior is surprisingly advanced. In fact, since ants make up such a big part of the insect world, scientists have already studied ants quite a bit. However, despite much research into ants, very few scientists have a detailed understanding of an ant’s development.
Recently, a large-scale study that was aimed at better understanding early ant life was carried out by researchers from the North Carolina State University, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science, the South-China Agricultural University, Sao Paulo State University and the University of Illinois. The ants that these academics were working with for the study included three different species of trap-jaw ant. Trap-jaw ants have spring-loaded jaws, and an extremely painful bite. Many researchers refer to these types of ants as one of the world’s fiercest predators. The recent study looked at each stage of early ant development. This may be the first study to thoroughly describe the larval development of the trap-jaw ant.
The researchers were able to ascertain how many different larval-developmental stages the trap-jaw ants experienced before reaching adulthood. One of the most helpful methods employed by the researchers involved putting ants underneath a Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). The SEM images made it clear to researchers that they do not know nearly as much about ants as they thought they did.
The images revealed protrusions that looked like “sticky doorknobs” on four different locations on the backsides of ants. These sticky doorknobs are similar to the body parts found on other ants, and the purpose of the doorknob-protrusions is to allow the trap-jaw larvae to stick to the wall of its nest. Although this study may not sound like a big deal, the fact is that researchers can now refer to this study in order to identify early on, which insects are “workers” and which are “soldiers.”
Have you ever stepped extremely close to an ant in order to gain a detailed look at their bodies?