Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Tiny Dracula ants hunting underground in Madagascar and the Seychelles

Date: June 23, 2015

Source: Pensoft Publishers

Summary: Six new species of cryptic, subterranean ants from the genus Prionopelta have been described from the Malagasy region. The tiny underground dwellers are part of the larger group of the Dracula ants and are fierce, social predators that hunt down prey with dagger-like teeth.

Members of the ant genus Prionopelta are fierce, social predators that hunt down their prey with dagger-like teeth. These ants live throughout the tropics of the world, but usually go completely unnoticed for two main reasons.

Firstly, they are tiny. The smallest of the newly described species makes a fruit fly look huge. At 1.5 mm in length and 0.2 mm wide it is a barely visible fleck, skinnier even than the diameter of some single-celled protozoa.

Secondly, they lead an extremely cryptic lifestyle. Unlike many ants that are seen marching around at picnics, Prionopelta are either subterranean or live deep within leaf litter on the rainforest floor--some never catch a glimpse of sunlight their entire lives.

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