Kamikaze Ant Fighters

I happened to stumble upon a video on Youtube recently about the “Top 10 Animal Power Moves”. Zooming straight to the top of the list is the Carpenter Ants or Camponotus saundersi. So what power moves do they possess? The Carpenter Ants, found in Malaysia and Brunei, are given the nickname “exploding ants” as they will do just that when confronted with danger.

Not all of the Carpenter Ants have the ability to get into self-destruct mode. It is the worker ants, charged with the duty to defend the colony at all costs, that would use this defence mechanism as the ultimate sacrifice to protect its colony.

These worker ants have greatly enlarged mandibular glands compared to other ants and these glands run the full length of its body. When the ants are under duress, they will contract their abdomens muscles vigorously, causing the glands to implode and spray gluey toxic in all directions and thus immobilizing its predators even if it means at the expense of its own life. They will squirt toxic mainly from its end, from its mouth and through its ruptured exoskeleton.

This process of internal rupturing or autothysis is surprisingly not rare in the animal kingdom. It is popularized by the Carpenter Ants but is also noted in other species like termites and toads.

Most of the time this happened the ants are either confronted with grave danger or fighting a losing battle against predators that are physically bigger. For its predators, the costs of attacking the Carpenter Ants would then outweigh the benefits and make them think twice about pursuing its attack. Talking about ending it with a bang literally. In this case it is a boom.

lsm pic


“Carpenter Ant”. Wikipedia. URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camponotus_saundersi (accessed 02 April 2010)

James Ridley,Blackwell Science,2003. “Questions about Animal Behaviour.” Animal Behaviour 2nd Edition, pg 1-4.

2nd: Jones, T.H.; Clark, D.A.; Edwards, A.A.; Davidson, D.W.; Spande, T.F. and Snelling, Roy R. (2004): “The Chemistry of Exploding Ants, Camponotus spp. (Cylindricus complex)”. Journal of Chemical Ecology 30(8): 1479-1492. doi:10.1023/B:JOEC.0000042063.01424.28

James Ridley,Blackwell Science,2003. “Questions about Animal Behaviour.” Animal Behaviour 2nd Edition, pg 1-4. Figure 1.1 and 1.2