Ants of the ponerine genus Odontomachus employ a trap-jaw mechanism that allows them to instantaneously close their long, sturdy mandibles to catch prey or to defend themselves. Photoelectric scanning has revealed that these trap-jaws can be closed in less than 0.5 ms and that they decelerate before they collide with each other. The mandible strike is released in a reflexlike action when particular trigger hairs are touched. This reflex takes 4 to 10 ms and is probably the fastest reflex yet described for any animal. This speed is based on a catch mechanism in the mandible joint that keeps the extended mandibles open during contraction of the powerful closer muscle and allows the potential energy it produces to be stored within cuticular elements, apodemes, and the closer muscle itself. During a strike a relatively small specialized trigger muscle unlocks the catch, instantaneously releasing the stored energy to accelerate the mandible.
- Fast movements
- Joint morphology Catch mechanism
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Behavioral Neuroscience