Rare T.rex ant found alive for first time in Singapore

Bruno Cirelli
Mag 19, 2017

They are found to be picky eaters, and can resort to cannibalism if needed. The forest was also regularly used as a training ground for the island's military and was littered with bottles and wrappers, according to Wong, a National Geographic Young Explorer, and Yong, who works at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The ant species was first found in 2003, when entomologist Fernando Fernández revealed that a single dead ant from Malaysia represented a new genus.

Eating fellow ants has been one of several multiple hygiene strategies to "prevent the spread of pathogens on corpses", Wang, who was not involved in the study, said.

The ant's tiny mandibles reminded him of the stubby arms of Tyrannosaurus rex, and so it was named after the fearsome beast.

The ants also refused any of the foods offered to them, so what they survive on in the wild remains a mystery. When faced with a threat, the ants curl up and freeze instead of fighting.

This selective diet and kiasi nature might be why they are so elusive - the researchers found T. rex ants are not attracted to the sugar and food that we have at home unlike the uninvited guests that we often encounter.

Despite more than 20 years passing since the first example was found, very little is known about the ants.

Writing in the report, the authors said: 'The paucity of records for Tyrannomyrmex species is likely attributable to their small colony size, as well as their nesting habits in moist rotting wood under leaf-litter, an environment likely to be missed by conventional ant collection methods.

By setting up artificial colonies, the researchers were able to test their reactions to a range of stimuli.

It turns out that, besides being an occasional carnivore, the T. Rex ant isn't really that scary (but hey, neither was the Tyrannosaurus Rex itself).

The creature crawled over a number of curled up worker ants, before one plucky individual stung the millipede, forcing it to retreat.

Below is the footage of the ants that Wong has provided to National Geographic. But strangely enough, the colony cannibalized its sole male, leaving the researchers perplexed about the act.

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