Learn boxing from trap-jaw ants

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New York, Feb 11 (IANS) Boxing great Muhammad Ali famously declared his intent to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” but perhaps pugilists should look to another type of insect for inspiration — the trap-jaw ant.

Trap-jaw ants are the fastest boxers ever recorded as their strikes may range from 19.5 per second to a blazing-fast 41.5 per second while engaging in antennal boxing bouts for dominance, according to researchers.

“All social animals exhibit dominance behaviours of one kind or another. In the case of social insects, we often focus on their chemical communication system, but in these ants the antennal boxing was too remarkable to ignore,” said entomology professor Andrew Suarez from University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign.

During the study, published in the journal Insectes Sociaux, Suarez and postdoctoral researcher Adrian Smith used high-speed cameras to record antaenna boxing matches in four species of trap-jaw ants.

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They then counted how rapidly each species pummelled their opponents.

The speeds ranged from 19.5 strikes per second for Odontomachus rixosus, hailing from Cambodia, to a blazing-fast 41.5 strikes per second for Odontomachus brunneus, native to Florida, the researchers found.

“Trap-jaw ants are the fastest boxers ever recorded,” Smith noted.

“Describing how fast multiple species box each other helps us understand how this behaviour evolves. For instance, we found that when one species uses boxing as a form of aggression, the behaviour is indistinguishable from boxing as a social dominance interaction between colony members,” the researcher added.

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