Man-trap jaws make ant fastest predator

AN ANT with jaws like a man- trap has been officially named the fastest-striking predator in the animal kingdom.

The trap-jaw ant Odontomachus bauri, from central and south America, snaps its mandibles shut in a mere 0.13 milliseconds - 2,300 times faster than the blink of an eye, scientists have found.

Travelling at between 115 and 210 feet per second - or up to 145mph - each jaw generates a force 300 times greater than the insect's own body weight.

Experts had thought no animal could move more quickly than the mantis shrimp, which delivers a powerful kick at 75 feet per second.

The amazing abilities of the trap-jaw ant were discovered by scientists using a high-speed video camera filming at 50,000 frames per second.

Not only do the jaws rapidly dispatch prey - normally other insects, such as termites and grasshoppers - but they also come in handy for escaping from predators. The ant uses the spring mechanism of its mandibles to jump clear of trouble. Snapped on to the ground, they act like an ejector seat, launching the ant three inches into the air.

Dr Shela Patek, the research leader from the University of California at Berkeley, said the acceleration of the mandibles - generating a G-force 100,000 times that of gravity - was even more impressive than their speed. "The mandibles are operating in the outer known limits in biology in terms of speed and acceleration," she said.

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