In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion is the king. In the jungle, the mighty jungle, survival is the key. Animals have adapted various modes of self-defense from predators. These include the suffocating slime of the hagfish, the poisonous feces of the potato bug, the electric shock of the electric eel, the cat-like claws of the hairy frog and the award goes to (cue drum rolls) the ‘suicide bombing’ of the Malaysian ants, a.k.a. the exploding ants.
No jokes, some species of ants are the real MVPs in suicide bombing (in the animal kingdom). They practically wait for their predators to come very close then go “boom! In your face fellas!” They sacrifice themselves for their colony, oh what manner of love!
There are eleven things you should know about these ants called the exploding ants.
1. The males have big wings and even bigger bodies but unlike humans, the reproductive males are not ‘the head of the home’. They are basically ‘sit at home mums’ who practically sit at home till it’s time for the ‘nuptial flights’.
The males are useful only for mating and die within hours of mating. This is their life’s true purpose.
2. The queen is the life giver in this colony. She is the only egg-laying caste of this species. Every other activity centers on her, her protection and her egg-laying task. She is born with large wings and thorax. After mating, she goes on to form her own colony so she breaks her wing as they are now ‘useless’ to her. Her abdomen is made of a thin and stretchable material which expands at the rate of her egg-laying.
3. The workers are the unproductive females and the real MVPs of this species. They take all the pressure in the colony from digging and building to the collection of food and materials right down to security details (of the queen, eggs, larvae, and pupae). Interestingly, they are the smallest in size. They also have no wings and tiny ovaries. Their heads come in two sizes: some small and some big.
4. The small-headed workers are the ultimate defenders of life. Apparently, their body is full of some sticky goo contained glandular sacs. When the presence of an invader is recognized, they go into immediate action. They squeeze a part of their gut called the ‘gaster’, and spew forth the yellow goo-like toxin all over the invader killing themselves and the invader. They give up their lives for their sisters’.
5. The big-headed workers take it up from there. Their heads are circular and have flattened and raised shield-like sections which they use to temporarily plug openings into the colony to prevent invasion. fANTastic!
6. The workers collect food daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Their foods include algae, dead insects, fish, fungi, moss, and fruits. While they are out collecting food, a small number of them keep ‘account’ of others as they go in and out by touching them with their mouth.
7. The goo which comes out from their abdomen smells like some sort of spice. Some people have likened the smell to that of curry.
8. Exploding ants’ Genus is called Colobopsissaundersi (formerly Camponotussaundersi) and was predominant in Malaysia and Thailand. Scientists have known about this genus since 1916 but have discovered no new species since 1935.
9. Recently a research team from varying disciplines set out on an expenditure to garner more knowledge about these ants. This group of interdisciplinary Researchers were members of the Technical University Vienna, Natural History Museum Vienna and some other contributing institutions. The group went on to identify 15 different species of exploding ants.
10. A new species called Colobopsisexplodens was also identified in Borneo. This species was found with a host of observed peculiarities which earned it a place as the model for biological identification of exploding ants.
11. The three main castes of the exploding ant colony (like other ants) are the reproductive male, the reproductive female, and the non-reproductive females.
Because we are really excited about these amazing ants, here is a bonus fact:
12. A flying mating pair exists! This was discovered by the team of Researchers earlier mentioned.
More research has been proposed for further studies on the microbiology, evolution, chemical profile, anatomy, and behavior of the exploding ants. So we really hope to learn more and probably inform you as we do.
Look at the ants and emulate them (obviously, their suicidal tendencies aside!)