Scientists have identified a new species of ant that, when the low-ranking worker ants get angry or defend their colony, intentionally explodes, covering nearby enemies in a sticky, toxic yellow “goo.” The “suicide bomber ants” use violent abdominal muscle contracts to effectively tear themselves apart, killing themselves in the process.
Biologists discovered the any in the forest canopy in Borneo. The toxic liquid released by the exploding ant is described as smelling somewhat like curry, but has the ability to injure or even kill their foes.
Additionally, the ant will lock its jaws around the nearby threat. Should the enemy invader survive the goo, it then has to contend with dragging around the body of the ant.
Scientists have named the species Colobpis explodens based on the ant’s unique behavior.
A variety of other ant species also release chemicals through glands in their jaws. However, the new species have much larger glands, allowing their body to be effectively filled with the liquid.
Battles between Colobpis explodens and other ants that reside in the forest canopy can lead the attacked ants, as well as the remains of the exploding ants, to tumble to the forest floor, leaving any survivors to become easy prey for local predators.
Colobpis explodens is one of 15 new species of exploding ants discovered by Natural History Museum Vienna researchers as well as their colleagues in Borneo.
The first record stating that there were exploding ants was written in 1916, but no new species had been described since 1935.
The biologists referred to Colobpis explodens, according to a report by the Daily Mail, as a “model species” for the group, suggesting it will play an important role in future studies focused on exploding ants.
Scientists also claimed that this species is “particularly prone to self-sacrifice when threatened by enemy arthropods, as well as intruding researchers.”
Self-sacrificing animals are very rare in nature, though it has been identified previously. Some species of termites will explode in defense of their mounds.
However, the ants will sacrifice themselves not just to defend the colony, but also in one-on-one confrontations far from their nests, making the behavior fairly unique.