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New species of ants 'explodes' to protect colony

Samson X Horne
| Thursday, April 19, 2018, 9:03 p.m.
Two ants met a sticky end when one of them ruptured her body to spew a sticky yellow goo. (Mark Moffett/Minden Pictures/Newscom)
Two ants met a sticky end when one of them ruptured her body to spew a sticky yellow goo. (Mark Moffett/Minden Pictures/Newscom)

A new ant species discovered in Borneo has a peculiar form of defense— the irony is that it's self-sacrifice.

The species, known as Colobopsis explodens, is at a disadvantage when it comes to it's enemies: it doesn't have large mandibles, cannot sting, and most predators view it as easy prey, according to National Geographic .

The treetop-dwelling insects inhabit the leafy canopies of trees that stand as tall as 197 feet, Live Science reported.

When the smaller, or minor worker ants feel threatened, they gang up on would-be-attackers and rip themselves apart at the abdomen by means of flexion to the point that they burst at the seams. All of the ants that perform this fatal task are sterile females.

Entomologists—zoologists who focus on insects— say that's only half of the feat to protect the colony. The ants also release a bright yellow, gooey substance that is toxic.

The secretion is manufactured within the ants' jaw glands and is released at the rupturing of a portion of the abdomen called the gaster; scientists in the study said the goo has a smell reminiscent of curry, Nat Geo reported.

C. explodens also has an adaptation in which the larger worker ants, commonly known as "soldiers" who are also sterile females, have enlarged heads with circular flattened shield-like sections at the top. These strange looking heads create a "perfect" plug for the ants to block openings to their nests—if the explosions don't do the trick, according to Live Science.

Samson X Horne is a digital producer for Trib Total Media. Follow him on Twitter @spinal_tapp.

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