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Adrian Smith is head of the Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Research lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and a research assistant professor in biology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
Nine months ago, in my research laboratory at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science, in Raleigh, I filmed myself being bitten by an ant. It wasn’t a bite from an ordinary, everyday ant. It was my main study organism, a trap-jaw ant of the genus Odontomachus, with jaws that snap shut faster than almost any other recorded animal movement. It’s so fast that visualizing it requires filming at a minimum of 60,000 frames per second. When I show high-speed videos of these ants, and talk about them, inevitably I’m met with the question: “Would it hurt if they snapped against you?” That’s a question that was answered almost immediately for me when I started working with them eight years ago: no. They’d snap their tiny jaws at my hands and bounce off, nearly unnoticed, while I scavenged through excavated nest soil in the field or cleaned their nest boxes in the lab.
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Nature576, 327-328 (2019)
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