Scientists have discovered 33 new ant species in Central American and the Caribbean.
New research indicates that the previously unknown ants live in leaf litters and rotten logs in rainforests and that they are each less than one-twelfth of an inch in length.
Jack Longino, an entomologist at the University of Utah, said scientists had named one-third of the ants after Mayan deities.
Eurhopalothrix zipacna, for example, is named for a violent crocodile-like Mayan demon, and can found in Guatemala and Honduras. Eurhopalothrix xibalba, "place of fear," was named after the Mayan underworld and is found from Honduras to Costa Rica.
"The new species were found mostly in small patches of forest that remain in a largely agricultural landscape, highlighting the importance of forest conservation efforts in Central America," he said of the findings.
Longino added that viewed under a microscope the new ants were "stuff of nightmares."
"Their faces are broad shields, the eyes reduced to tiny points at the edges and the fierce jaws bristling with sharp teeth. They look a little like the monster in 'Alien,'" he said.
Longino's paper on his discovery, which is co-authored by an unnamed scientist, was published on July 29 in the journal Zootaxa. In the study, he names about half of the species he discovered. The rest will be revealed in a second paper to be published shortly in the same journal.
According to Longino, there are about 100,000 species of ants worldwide. So far, he's discovered 131.