One-Of-A-Kind Ant Uses Legs and Jaw To Jump From Predators

Most ants walk on six legs or fly with wings to get around their habitat. However, a discovery published in December 2015 sheds light on one species of trap-jaw ant that uses two types of jumps to get away from predators. These observations mean this special type of ant, known as Odontomachus rixosus, is the only ant species on Earth that jumps with both its legs and mandibles.

Photo Credit: The Next Gen Scientist via Flickr
Photo Credit: The Next Gen Scientist via Flickr

This species uses the spring-like action of its mandibles to jump backward, according to LiveScience. The ants push their open jaws against the ground, a tree, or the predator itself and snap them closed. The motion propels them away from an attacker.

Photo Credit: D Magdalena Sorger via Facebook
Photo Credit: D Magdalena Sorger via Facebook

Unfortunately for O. rixosus, this backward jump typically lands them in an awkward position, such as upside down, that makes it difficult to crawl away. The leg jump moves the ants forward instead of backward, and these trap-jaw ants land upright and ready to run. These ants use a forward jump to escape from predators and when they detect trouble.

Specimens jump from leaf to leaf and from leaf to ground. Of the 326 genera of ants, only three jump with the legs, and three with mandibles, making both behaviors incredibly rare. It is unknown whether these ants use the leg jump to capture prey, notes North Carolina State University. Lead researcher D. Magdalena Sorger plans to return to the field in Borneo for further study to determine how O. rixosus may use these jumps aside from defense.

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Sorger notes that the two methods of jumping are extremely interesting, but that's not all that's amazing about jumping ants. Some trap-jaw ants can jump more than 100 times the length of their bodies, says Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Because of this very unique species, the habitat for these ants should come under protection in Borneo. Ants form a vital link in the rainforest's ecology as part of a vibrant food chain. Discover other amazing insect adaptations, and how you can help, by visiting The Rainforest Site.

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