New species of 'exploding ants' found in Southeast Asia


Their findings on the new "Colobopsis Explodens" species - which inhabits the tropical rainforests of south-east Asia - have been published in the open access journal ZooKeys. The researchers plan to describe more exploding-ant species in future papers, so get ready to make room in your nightmares for even more of these fascinating creepy-crawlies. The ant doesn't literally explode in a Michael Bay sort of way, but the desperate measure causes a sticky and toxic liquid to pour out from its bloated glands - a noxious substance that's capable of killing the intruder. An worldwide team of researchers has now discovered a new species of these exploding ants.

The worker ants from this species display the odd defence behaviour that has intrigued scientists for long - they explode in response to threats from predators, their tiny explosions releasing a sticky toxic liquid to kill or slow down the enemy.

An ant from a brand new species group referred to as "Colobopsis explodens" able to "exploding themselves" when below assault. Such types of the exploding ants are very rare to be found.

In 2014, researchers from Thailand, Brunei and Austria gathered together for the first ever interdisciplinary conference dedicated to the ants. The scientists determined there are at least 15 different kinds of these self-sacrificing insects, including this one.

If enemies survive the first line of defense, they will come face-to-face with the colony's major workers and their enlarged, plug-shaped heads, researchers wrote. Speaking to Haaretz, Laciny says similar discoveries were made in the middle of World War I: "The exploding behavior was first observed in 1916 by German entomologist Hugo Viehmeyer (apparently a war was not enough to distract him from his research)".

The newly identified ant species was selected as the group's model species, after the scientists deemed it to be "particularly prone to self-sacrifice when threatened by enemy arthropods, as well as intruding researchers", the summary said. "They do it quite readily". The suicide attack kills the minor workers, whose valiant acts of martyrdom help maintain the long-term survival and viability of the colony.

"Imagine a single ant is like a cell in a human body", she said. "They sacrifice their lives to hold off danger".

Scientists have been aware of exploding ants for more than a hundred years.