Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Cannibal 'T. Rex' Ants Seen Live for 1st Time Ever (and They're Shy)

By Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Contributor | May 16, 2017 02:14pm ET 

An ant named after the fierce, carnivorous dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex has been observed alive for the first time — and it failed to live up to the dinosaur's reputation.

Tyrannomyrmex rex is a timid, finicky eater, new research finds. The ants can, however, turn to cannibalism in times of need.

Until now, these Asian ants were a complete mystery to science, despite being discovered more than 20 years ago. No one had ever collected more than a single specimen, and no one had ever observed a T. rex ant alive for an extended period of time. So when biologist Mark Wong stumbled across a colony of T. rex ants while conducting an ant diversity survey in Singapore, he knew he had something important.

He and his colleague Gordon Yong from the National University of Singapore carefully collected the colony, which consisted of 13 workers, as well as eggs, larvae and pupae (the liminal stage between larva and adulthood). They then observed the ants in an attempt to figure out what makes them tick. Because the study is the first of its kind, everything the researchers discovered is new, Wong told Live Science.

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