Like human fingers, Mystrium camillae mandibles can slide past each other at blazing speeds, though the ants’ snaps are 1,000-times faster. At 90 meters per second (that’s roughly 201 miles per hour), their mandibles are the speediest body part around. What are their mandibles—that’s their mouth parts, in case you weren’t sure—even doing going so fast? They’re snapping. And yeah, that might not sound as exciting as how a mantis shrimp punches, but haven’t they gotten enough attention? Their punches are only a measly 23 meters per second.
Dracula ants are so under-appreciated that we don’t even really understand why they need to snap their mandibles so quickly. In a study published in Royal Society Open Science, biologists speculate that it might be a defense mechanism or possibly a method of attack. They weren’t able to measure the force generated by the M. camillae mandibles, but they point out that even tiny mantis shrimps are able to produce forces many thousands of times greater than their body weight—it’s reasonable that Dracula ants might produce massive power with their snapping mouth bits, too.
But for now, these biologists don’t care how forceful the snaps are. They care how the snaps happen in the first place.
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