Huge-Eyed Jumping Ants! Gigantiops destructor


Josh is in the lab today and he brought
with him some awesome ants: Gigantiops destructor. And we’ve been filming them
doing things like jumping off of platforms, jumping onto our finger, and
things like that because Josh actually studies jumping behaviors and other
behaviors and ants. But, Josh, what would you say your research expertise is in?
Well, I primarily study mechanics of movements in ants.
Specifically the mandible strikes of trap-jaw ants. But I also work on other
projects and different species of ants. Like studying the mechanics of jumping
in Gigantiops destructor. Yeah, so we actually filmed all this stuff for a video that
will summarize his research results on the mechanics of their jumps. But before
we publish that, we wanted to actually put out a video that sort of highlights
the natural history and the behaviors of this incredible species. Gigantiops
destructor might be the best species name ever. A hundred years ago biologist
William Morton Wheeler wrote the name “conjures up visions of a huge-eyed
insatiable monster, a kind of Cyclopean insect-jaguar. Gigantiops refers to the
ants’ giant eyes, but destructor, the specific name, was given to this ant in
1804 by a zoologist who likely never saw it alive. If you came across Gigantiops
in and around the Amazon rainforest this is what you might see. A lone worker
wandering through the leaf litter jumping between gaps in the foliage. The
temperament of these ants is about as opposite of destructor as possible.
They’re so curious and non-aggressive that if you wave your finger in front of
them they jump up on to it and then just walk around and hang out on your hand. they put their jumping ability and huge
eyes to use while navigating the chaotic forest floor. Unlike a lot of other ants,
they don’t follow pheromone trails or cooperate to transport food. Each worker
goes out of the nest on its own and when it comes across the gap in the
undergrowth they size up the distance and make make the leap. In a recent study, researchers found that Gigantiops is able to navigate mazes using only visual
cues. In the experiment the ants learned that a wide vertical line meant that
should turn left and a thin vertical line was a right-hand turn. After given a
piece of food the ants were challenged with the maze marked with these visual
cues in a random order. The researchers watched as the ants use
the shapes to navigate the maze and choose the right path back to their nest. Beyond visual navigation, jumping is
their other incredible talent. Gigantiops is one of only a few ants
that uses its legs to jump forward. Other ants that jump with their legs include
the Australian Jack Jumpers of the genus Myrmecia and ants of the genus Harpegnathos. Even some species of trap-jaw ants who are
famous for using their spring-loaded jaws to jump backwards, are also known to use their legs jump forward across gaps in the understory. While other jumping
ants have sister species in their same genus Gigantiops sits alone on its own
branch of the evolutionary tree. There are no other Gigantiops species. It’s one
incredible species living among multitudes in the Amazon rainforest and
it’s one small reason to admire, respect, and protect our natural world. So that’s
a little bit about the biology of these jumping ants the next video that we’ll
publish about them will be a summary of your research results. Do you want to
give a preview of those? No. No I don’t want to give anything away right now. No spoilers. You have to watch the next video to find out. Ok, well, stay tuned the next one will be
Josh’s research results which are pretty interesting. Thanks for watching this
video!

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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