Escape from the jaws of death!

Animals are usually predator or prey but sometimes even predators find
themselves prey of another species I’m an entomologist University of
Illinois and the Smithsonian natural history museum and I’m going to tell you about what happens when two fierce insect predators meet face to face Ant lions are ambush predators commonly found throughout Florida they dig pits in sand and bury themselves
the bottom. The walls of these pits are unstable the ant lion flings sand at the prey making them tumble to the bottom of the pit where the ant lions pulls its victim
under the and to eat it alive the ants that I study, trap-jaw ants are lone huntresses they subdue their prey by using their powerful sting and their ultrafast snapping jaws. Their
mandibles naps are among the fastest animal movements ever documented What I wanted to know was whether
this powerful adaptation for prey capture could also be used during encounters with ant
lion predators to help the ants survive first I collected ant lions and let them
dig pits an experimental arenas then I introduced trap-jaw ant workers
into these pits and recorded the outcome. I found that
half of the time the ants escaped by running out of the pit but running didn’t always work and
sometimes they end up trapped at the bottom on the edge in being eaten in this situation their mandible snap
provides an impressive means of escape they snap their mandibles against the
walls of the pit and all the force of the the strike is reflected back at them propelling them up and safely out of the pit.
Mandible power jumps help them escape 15 percent of the time.
After observing this I wondered if taking away their mandible
powered escape mechanism really would diminish their other surviving could they compensate by escaping in other
ways? So I did a second experiment where I glued the mandibles shut and compare
their survival to other non-glued control ants I found that mandible snaps doubled
their odds of escaping. This is a striking example of how something that evolved for one purpose, prey capture, can become essential in a
completely different context I hope my work has shown you something
new and exciting about the natural world and the insects that are a part of it.

Comments 16

  • Opening music by The Anchorite Four, song "Long Enough" on their debut self titled album.

  • Imagine being so powerful that you could punch a wall and launch yourself a good 10 feet away. Put that into a game and ship it.

  • I find that cool and interesting

  • Totally learned something new and rather interesting! Thanks!

  • Interesting. I suspect that the acts don't actually decide to use it as an escape mechanism though, but rather a desperate and blind attempt at self defense randomly snapping. I could certainly be mistaken though.

  • fascinating!

  • Insect cruelty

  • I feel bad for the ants

  • i wonder if we could glue this guys fingers together to see how well he could survive compared to other non-glued entomologists. anyone up for an experiment? its for science!

  • man i played with those ants as a kid, i taked a chopstick and make them bite it, and they went flying, i tough they were attacking instead of defending themselves!

  • Good video!

    Just a remark: as an entomologist, you shouldn't say bombastic things like "to eat them alive" just for dramatic effect. The antlion larvae do not eat the ants alive, they inject them with solvents that liquefy their innards and later suck out the solution – very much like spiders do.

  • Thanks to vsause for getting me here ūüėÄ and this is so cool

  • This is BEAUTIFUL

  • Wait! if mandible powered jumps helped then escape 15% of the time then how do mandible snaps double their odds of escaping? is suspect either these stats are wrong or the simple fact is that incapacitating the ants main weapon just greatly lowers its odds of survival!
    This experiment probably took quite some time so why not make a video a tad more informative?

  • This young scientist does a very fine job of explaining his experiment and its results.

  • Next: Ants vs Magnifying Glass

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