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Title:Biting Machines
Author(s):Larabee, Fredrick
Abstract:Animals use a diverse combination of mechanical components, such as levers, springs, and linkages, to power the behaviors that fascinate and inspire nature lovers. Trap-jaw ants, my study system, use a catapult mechanism to snap their long, spring-loaded mandibles shut at some of the fastest speeds ever recorded for an animal movement. Even though this behavior is most commonly used to capture prey, when trap-jaw ants are themselves attacked by other predators they aim their strikes at the substrate to jump away from danger. I am interested in how trap-jaw ants achieve these record-breaking speeds and how they have evolved over time. This image was generated using X-Ray Microtomography and reveals the internal anatomy of a trap-jaw ant head. By examining morphology, it is possible to infer the mechanism of the trap-jaw apparatus. A latch keeps the mandibles open even when the large mandible closer muscle (highlighted) contracts, allowing potential energy to be stored until a specialized trigger muscle releases the latch and the mandibles instantaneously accelerate shut. The relative size of the closer muscle is particularly clear in this image; it takes up almost the entire volume of the head.
Issue Date:2015
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Fredrick Larabee
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-04-23

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