Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The record for fastest appendage belongs to the dracula ant, Mystrium camilla, and its snap-jaw. Scientists clocked the speed of its mandibles at 200 miles per hours.
The dracula ant's snap-jaw is even faster than the mandibles of the trap-jaw ant.
"These ants are fascinating as their mandibles are very unusual," Andrew Suarez, professor of entomology at the University of Illinois, said in a news release. "Even among ants that power-amplify their jaws, the dracula ants are unique: Instead of using three different parts for the spring, latch and lever arm, all three are combined in the mandible."
Where as trap-jaw ants slam their mandibles closed from an open position, dracula ants press the tips of their mandibles together until the pressure overcomes the friction and one mandible slides across the other, like snapping fingers.
"The ants use this motion to smack other arthropods, likely stunning them, smashing them against a tunnel wall or pushing them away," Suarez said. "The prey is then transported back to the nest, where it is fed to the ants' larvae."
The snap-jaw movement isn't new, but the research marked the first time scientists have measured the speed of the action. Researchers used high speed cameras to analyze the motion in detail.
"We also used X-ray imaging technology to be able to see their anatomy in three dimensions, to better understand how the movement works," said Fredrick J. Larabee, a postdoctoral researcher at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.
The research, published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, proved the snap-jaw technique is the fastest of all the spring-loaded ant mouthparts measured by scientists.
Next, scientists plan to study the ant's use of their high-speed jaws in the wild.