New study sheds light on evolution of hell ants from 100 million years ago

Graphic: Phylogeny and cephalic homology of hell ants and present day lineages.
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Credit rating: NIGPAS

Ants are the most prosperous social bugs and engage in an important function in present day terrestrial ecosystems. The origin and early evolution of ants have attracted loads of interest.

Among the earliest fossil ants acknowledged, haidomyrmecine “hell ants” from Cretaceous amber expose an historical and extraordinary early burst radiation of adaptive types.

Hell ants possessed weird scythe-like mouthparts along with a hanging array of horn-like cephalic projections. But how did this type of ant evolve? This issue was very long a thriller.

Now, nonetheless, an global investigate team co-led by Prof. WANG Bo from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology (NIGPAS) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has verified the unique lure-jaw predation system of hell ants, furnishing new insights into their evolution.

The research was published in Latest Biology on August 6.

The investigate team performed morphological and anatomical examination of the heads of all hell ants in the amber specimens, in blend with a unique predator specimen, and verified the “lure-jaw” predation system adopted by hell ants from their morphological and practical elements.

The experts reported an occasion of fossilized predation that provides direct proof for the perform of dorsoventrally expanded mandibles and elaborate horns.

Their findings verified the speculation that hell ants captured other arthropods concerning mandible and horn in a fashion that could only be realized by articulating their mouthparts in an axial airplane perpendicular to that of present day ants.

The head capsule and mandibles of hell ants are uniquely integrated as a consequence of this predatory method and covary throughout species, when no proof has been uncovered of this sort of modular integration in extant ant groups.

The final results of this research suggest an extinct early burst adaptive radiation into morphospace that was unoccupied by any dwelling taxon. This radiation was triggered by an innovation in mouthpart motion and subsequent modular covariation concerning mandible and horn.

The new final results also suggest that hell ant cephalic integration – analogous to the vertebrate cranium – triggered a pathway for an historical adaptive radiation and enlargement into morphospace unoccupied by any dwelling taxon.

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