I Love Ants

Well, actually, no, I don’t love ants. Ants drive me crazy, especially when they’re crawling all over the house. They’re interesting critters in many ways, and for years I’ve been attracted to Douglas Hofstedter’s notion of intelligent anthills as he presented them in his book Godel, Escher, and Bach. But just keep them out of my house. Especially my kitchen.

But this is cool: today, Science Daily reports on the discovery of a new species of ant found in the Amazonian rain forest. It’s an odd looking little ant. Here’s a picture of it:

(Click on the thumbnail for a larger picture.)

The main thing to know about this ant is that it’s blind, and it has really long mandibles for its mouth. You can see the mandibles even better in this picture:

The Latin name for this new species of ant is Martialis heureka. Roughly translated, that means, “Ant from Mars”. This new species is so peculiar, so unlike any other known species of ant, that entomologists joke it could only have come from Mars. More significantly, it’s so unusual that it gets its own genus, separate from every other ant species. They suspect it’s an underground dweller, blind because it lives in the dark and doesn’t need eyes, and with huge forceps-type mandibles that make it all the easier to grab little subterranean critters and munch on them. I’m not sure what it feeds on, because the article doesn’t make it clear. It does say that this species of ant is predatory, so I’m going to say it feeds on mites. I’ll make sure that they stay away from my mite collection.

Some scientists are calling this a fossil ant species. It is, quite simply, the Coelecanth of ants. No new ant species have been discovered since 1921. Spiffy.

So how cool is that? Bizarre space ants from the Amazon. These critters will very likely show up in my next Story of the Week, tentatively entitled “The X of Doom”.

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