|3-D scan of the newly discovered ant Pheidole drogon.|
The new ants, Pheidole viserion and Pheidole drogon, not only feature dragon-like characteristics, but the soldier ants of these species also have massive heads relative to the size of the rest of their bodies. The formidable insects are documented in the journal PLOS ONE.
|3-D scans of a Pheidole drogon minor (left) and a major worker (right).|
"This is one of the first studies in ant taxonomy to use micro-CT," Economo, head of OIST's Biodiversity and Biocomplexity Unit, said in a press release. "While this method is gaining popularity in different scientific fields, it is rare to use it in this way."
That process, along with more traditional analysis, allowed the researchers to determine that the found ants represent new species. The ants now "live" in 3-D, allowing them to be dissected, archived and shared with other scientists around the world.
"Once you open up the rotational 3-D PDF and see these ants' extraordinary spines, or 'inordinate spinescence' as we phrase it in the study, you can't help but ask why on earth these structures evolved," Sarnat said. "The most obvious answer is defense, but the internal morphology revealed by this new micro-CT scanning technology suggests that the answer might also have something to do with muscle mechanics and powering the huge heads of the soldier ants."
Read more at Discovery News