If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to step in a nest of fire ants, you know how painful bites from even the tiniest of insects can be. No matter how bad fire ant bites might be, they’ve got nothing on the bites from a recently discovered species of hell ant. Scientists have discovered the hellish new species inside a 98-million-year-old piece of amber mined in amber-rich Myanmar. The new ant has been named Linguamyrmex vladi, the species name coming from Vlad the Impaler, infamous 15th-century ruler who inspired the Dracula legend. The ant belongs to a group of Cretaceous-era ants known as haidomyrmecines, or “hell ants.” Unlike modern ants, these species had mandibles that opened and closed vertically rather than horizontally.
The ant’s jaws are truly terrifying looking, sharp and long and covered in trigger hairs that initiate an involuntary closing response any time the hairs come into contact with prey. What really makes this ant unique – and terrifying – is the fact that its massive spiked jaws are made of metal.
No ant orthodontists were needed to create these metal jaws. Instead, researchers believe the ant’s diet was rich in various minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium and that the ants’ bodies created the metal coating on their own. According to the published study of the ants, these metal reinforcement allowed the ants to snap their jaws shut around prey with terrifying strength and speed, likely enough to punch right through the rigid bodies of insects much larger than the ants themselves.
Based on the shape and location of their teeth and a special hollow channel running along the ants’ mandibles, the researchers believe the ants instead had an all-liquid diet. This means these hell ants fed exclusively on the blood and other precious bodily fluids which leaked from their poor impaled prey; hence the ant’s vampire-inspired name. While I don’t wish extinction upon any animal, this is one species I’m glad is long gone.