CHAMPAIGN, IL - Everyone knows ants use their jaws to capture prey. Now a new study suggests some might also use their pincers to getaway in a pinch! The trap-jaw ant, is famous for having super-fast mandibles. Their snap can clock in at 143 miles per hour. Fierce weapons, yes, but do they have another function?
For the experiment, researchers at the University of Illinois pitted trap-jaw ants against "antlions", bugs that bury themselves in loose sand and wait for prey to fall into their pit of death. In some occasions when trap-jaws ants couldn't climb out of the hole and were looking like goners, they used their mighty jaws to jump out! By snapping their mandibles, the trap-ants catapulted themselves out of harm's way. Researchers found the ants jumped out of the pit using their jaws 15% of the time. So, not only do the mandibles of a trap-ant make them master hunters, they can also make escaping a "snap" if the going gets tough.