Species of ants from Southeast Asia is officially classified as Colobopsis explodens for its extraordinary capability to rip itself apart in face of threats.
These ants exterminate bigger insects by latching onto their face, tearing themselves open, and emitting yellow toxic goo. They also do this defense mechanism when they are being threatened by humans.
The species are commonly known as simply "exploding ants" until a team of researchers, headed by Alice Laciny, a Ph.D. student at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, officially classified them as Colobopsis explodens. Their study is published in the journal ZooKeys.
Exploding Ants Facts
Laciny studied the ants in the rainforests of Borneo and found a hierarchy within its colony. Not all of them are capable of the defense mechanism. The capability is exclusive to the young, sterile female ant workers or what they referred to as "the minor workers." In essence, they do not only defend themselves but the whole of their colony.
They contract their abdomen and clench it tightly up to the point that it ruptures, splattering yellow goo that can slow down the enemy or suffocate them to death.
Borneo Exploding Ants And The Yellow Goo
The study states that the yellow goo is produced in the ant's jaw glands. The researchers also found that it contains a distinctive spice-like odor similar to how curry smells. Laciny said that it was not at all an unpleasant smell.
The goo is stored inside the ants' long glands while it is not yet being discharge from their bodies. It stays there up until the ants are compelled to "commit suicide."
The species of the exploding ants has actually been known since 1935 but it was only Laciny and her team who gave them its official name. The species had also been called as "yellow goo" in the past years. The team, however, was more inclined to classify them Colobopsis explodens because of their remarkable trait to particularly sacrifice themselves.
Borneo Exploding Ants Extraordinary Capability
The species' colony can inhabit canopies of trees that stand as tall as 197 feet and can cover an area of at least 26,900 square feet.
The major workers among the colony are not capable of self-detonation. Instead, these larger ants have bigger heads that are circular in shape and flattened at the top.
To protect their colony, they use their heads as a plug to the openings of their nests. This is to assure that no predators will be able to penetrate those holes to colonize or devour them.