A Cretaceous “Hell Ant” was preserved in amber because it killed a baby cockroach


The idea that prehistoric animals could be fully trapped in amber has been preserved for millions of years, not just a staple of a dino-cloning sci-fi franchise like “Jurassic Park”. On Thursday, scientists revealed a monumental discovery about the ancient world in search of a “hell ant” trapped in amber as it was in the process of eating a cockroach to a child.

A hell ant, or haidomyrmecine, Is a relative of modern ants, but with one important difference: Instead of horizontal predators that bite their prey, the infernal ant had vertical jaws that resemble a scythe against its horn against a horn on its head. Used to pin food. The hell ant in question here managed to capture one Caputoraptor elegans, An insect related to modern cockroaches, but like the infernal ant, is now extinct.

“Ants are one of the earliest branches of the ant tree of life and their offspring originated before the most recent common ancestor of all living species,” Phillip Barden, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of biological sciences at the New Jersey Institute of Technology Department, told Salon by email. “This is not unlike the relationship between extinct non-avian dinosaurs and the birds we have today.”

As the article in Current Biology makes it clear, scientists are unsure why the unique vertical type of jaw seen in hell ants is not there today.

“Ecological pressures and developmental requirements that lead to vertical imperative manifestation are not yet known,” the authors write. “It is also unclear whether haidomyrmecines have been brought to extinction after continuing for a period of at least 20 million years in present-day Asia, Europe, and North America.” They note that malefic ants may be “susceptible to extinction during periods of ecological change”, although competition with other ants could also play a role in their extinction.

Salon asked Barden to state the great importance of the study.

“This paper provides an explanation of how we see diversity in the fossil record, which does not exist for a long time today,” Barden told Salon via email. “At the same time, it also gives us a better picture of an extinct group of pests, which we can expect to better understand how and why extinctions have different effects.”

Barden also stated that “although there are thousands of predatory ant species, no living ants capture prey in this way. That is, no modern ants have horns of any kind or mandibles specific in this way. ” He also elaborated that the ancient cockroach ancestor – who was then a juvenile who had been eaten – must have experienced being hunted by a hell ant.

Bardon tells Salon that the hunt must have essentially been placed around the throats of hell ants and the neck by hell ants. “We think the hell ant ant muscles can be very fast moving, something that we see in some modern ant predators, so it may be that the hell ant circles are locked in a very fast flash.”