Scientists have discovered a new species of “exploding ant” which sacrifices itself when attacked to protect the rest of the colony.
Exploding ants were first observed in 1916, but little is known about the rare insects, says New Atlas, so “a research team made up of entomologists, botanists, microbiologists, and chemists from Austria, Thailand and Borneo ventured into the forests of southeast Asia to find some fresh evidence”.
In the forests of Borneo, they discovered a previously unknown species of exploding ant - the first new variety of the insect recorded since 1935.
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When attacked, the tree-dwelling ant - which has been christened ‘Colobopsis explodens’ - latches on to its opponent and then flexes its abdomen so hard that it bursts, spraying the attacker with the toxic yellow liquid stored within its glands.
“Unsurprisingly, this results in immediate death,” says New Atlas. Like bumblebees, who die after using their sting, the ant sacrifices itself for the protection of the colony.
“The ability to blow up is not the species’ only interesting attribute,” says National Geographic.
For instance, the “lethal yellow goo has a distinct and not unpleasant smell that’s strangely reminiscent of curry”.
Not all colobopsis explodens are mere cannon fodder, however. While “minor workers” resort to kamikaze attacks, “major workers (also called ‘doorkeepers’) have big, plug-shaped heads used to physically barricade the nest entrances against intruders”, says Science Daily.
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