Everyone, these are trap-jaw ants. The two featured here are fighting. Watch them closely – even in slow motion, the the spring-loaded snap of a trap-jaw's maw is powerful enough to send both ants twirling in opposite directions in the blink of an eye.
The video was created by ant guy Adrian Smith, and came to our attention by way of Alex Wild (another ant guy, who runs a blog called Myrmecos that you should really check out). Writes Smith on the Ant Farm and Myrmecology Forum to which the video was first posted:
I've had a video of mine make it up in this forum before... so I thought I would take the initiative to post a new one that I made and am particularly proud of. The video is of non-nestmate aggression. It is filmed at 600 frames per second and playback is at 15. I added to the drama by including a soundtrack, so you can listen while you watch.
Like we said before: even slowed down, it's hard to see what's going on here. That's because the trap-jaw ant in the foreground has clamped its mandibles shut somewhere in the range of 35 to 64 meters per second (~78–145 miles per hour). The average duration of a trap-jaw clamp is just 0.13 milliseconds, making it among the fastest predatory strikes in the animal kingdom.
In 2006, a team led by UC Berkeley biologist Sheila Patek used high-speed videography to determine that a trap-jaw's mandibles can accelerate at 100,000 times the force of gravity, and exert a force powerful enough to send its body soaring through the air in a defensive maneuver known as an "escape jump" (seen above). Below is another example of a different evasive maneuver (called a "bounce defense jump") with a more horizontal trajectory, from the same study: