Researchers identify species of termite with fastest striking speed

06/20/2020 09:27 PM
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Photo courtesy of the National Chung Hsing University
Photo courtesy of the National Chung Hsing University

Taipei, June 20 (CNA) The Pericapritermes nitobei, a type of soil-feeding termite, can snap on any of its adversaries at a speed exceeding 400 kilometers per hour, faster than any known species of ants or other insects, a research team from Taiwan found.

The soldier termite of this particular species is equipped with a twisted mandible that can snap faster than any other known termite species, predatory ants or crustaceans, at a velocity of 132 meters per second, which is equivalent to roughly 475 kph, according to researchers from National Chung Hsing University (NCHU) on Friday, who recently published a study in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports.

The snapping behavior of the insect was observed in a petri dish, using an ultrahigh-speed camera to capture its action at 460,830 frames per second, they said.

In the study, the team further investigated the force and precision of the termite's asymmetric mandibular snaps, compared to other arthropods such as mantis shrimps and snap-jaw ants, which also possess powerful snapping jaws.

Video by the Lab of Urban Entomology

According to the NCHU, while many snap-jaw ants and termites have straight jaws that snap symmetrically, the asymmetric mandibles of the Pericapritermes nitobei were discovered to be hypothetically more efficient, rapid and powerful.

Using its mandibles, termites can snap the ground to leap away from ants or snap at ants to push them away or even kill them, the researchers said.

According to the research team, a total of 100 Pericapritermes nitobei termite soldiers were collected by excavating soil beneath stones and logs in three locations in Taiwan.

The study, titled "Termite's Twisted Mandible Presents Fast, Powerful, and Precise Strikes," was published by the journal on June 11.

(By Chao Li-yun and Ko Lin)

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