Your daily dose of nightmare fuel: squiggly ant-parasites from hell

From entomologist, blogger and insect photographer Alex Wild comes this remarkable image of a trapjaw ant, torn asunder to reveal the wriggling, 8-inch parasitic worm living inside. (The ant, by comparison, measures about half an inch long.)

Via Popular Science:

In the jungles of Belize last January, [Wild] noticed something odd about the trap-jaw ants passing through his outdoor insect photography class: They all had shrunken heads and swollen abdomens. A day after making the observation, Wild and his students came upon an ant with a worm bursting out of its side. Parasites were at work. Nematode worms enter the ants as larvae and grow inside the ants’ body cavity, siphoning off nutrients and distorting their hosts’ natural anatomy. When the eight-inch-long nematodes are ready to mate a few weeks later, they push their way out of their half-inch-long hosts, killing them.


Fun fact: when they're not bursting at the seams with squirming parasites, trapjaw ants are capable of clamping their 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.

See more example of Wild's remarkable photography on his website.


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