We’re continually learning new things about insects. They’ve existed since the dawn of time, and our education continues to evolve as we’re exposed to new species. Just take this recently discovered ant that’s possibly the oldest ant specimen ever discovered.
The new species, Linguamyrmex vladi, was discovered in Myanmar remarkably preserved in amber. Scientists and researchers determined that the new ant genus was a species of “hell ant” and was encapsulated nearly 98-million years ago during the Cretaceous period. But probably the most interesting details on this prehistoric ant is why it was named “vladi.” Named after Vlad Dracula, also known at Vladd III, Vlad the Impaler, and more commonly Dracula, the ant has similarities with vampires from fictional lore. Outfitted with mandible blades and a horn it’s suggested that prey passing by would set off the ant’s trigger hairs causing the scythe-shaped mandible blades to spring into action impaling the various insects on their horn. The mandibles also had channels in them to route hemolymph (insect blood) into the ant’s mouth.
Lastly, when researchers performed an X-ray scan of the ant, they were fascinated to discover that the horn was fortified with metal particles, like zinc or iron. It’s thought that this biological feature enabled the horn to withstand multiple strikes while hunting for prey. While the discovery opens new insights into older ant species, we’re pretty glad that horned, vampire ants aren’t around today.
“Researchers Find 98-Million-Year-Old Horned Vampire Ant Encased in Amber” Smithsonian