Prehistoric Hell Ants Attacked Prey With Their Metallic-Horned Heads
Many insect species that thrive today are terrifying to some people with insect phobias. Luckily for these people, some of the more terrifying insects that have existed on earth are now extinct. Millions of years ago, the diversity of insect life on planet earth was significantly different. Given the different oxygen levels that existed on earth long before humans arrived, prehistoric insects could reach colossal sizes. For example, a giant dragonfly species once ruled the skies hundreds of millions of years ago. Imagine any insect-phobic person you know responding to one of these unthinkably huge insects. However, not all prehistoric insects were horrifically large relative to modern insects. Some prehistoric insects were just as tiny, or even tinier than their modern ancestors, but they may have been outfitted with features that you would only expect to see on a monster in a science fiction horror film. The recently discovered “hell ant” is one of these insects. This particular ant looks similar to modern ants, only it had ferocious jaws and a horn on its head that was reinforced with metal.
The aptly named hell ants existed during the cretaceous period. Thankfully these ants are extinct, but a well preserved specimen was recently found encased in amber. The recently discovered hell ant did not possess the typical mouthparts that modern ants possess; instead these ants possessed upward-facing blades where modern mouthparts are located. Their feeding apparatus was reinforced with metal and included a horn that protruced right above this area. There are no insects in existence today that share this ant’s facial anatomy. However, the hairs that clearly surround the hell ant’s mouthparts are similar in appearance to the hairs that exist on the mouthparts of modern trap-jaw ants. This indicates that the two different species mouthparts may have operated in a similar way. The hell ant’s horn was revealed to be reinforced with metal after undergoing CT scans. This fossilized hell ant is believed to be ninety eight million years old, and until experts locate another similar looking ant fossil, the purpose of these horrific features will remain a matter of speculation among researchers.
Do you believe that finding another fossilized ant species that is nearly one hundred million years old is unlikely considering the small size of prehistoric ant species?