Interesting species in Singapore

Leptanilla hypodracos

Recently discovered by aspiring ant researcher Mark Wong, 25, in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the Leptanilla hypodracos is the only species of ant from the genus Leptanilladiscovered in Singapore.

Queen ants of some species from this genus are known to feed on the blood of their own larvae through unique organs on the latter's abdomens. This prevents the larval integument, or "skin", from getting damaged.

Ants belonging to the subfamily Leptanillinae, to which the genus Leptanilla belongs, are rarely collected due to their subterranean habits, said Assistant Professor Benoit Guenard, an entomologist from the University of Hong Kong.

"It is thus an interesting collection to get this species," said Prof Guenard, whom Mr Wong worked with to identify the Leptanilla hypodracos.


Dracula ants

The group of ants in the subfamily Amblyoponinae are called dracula ants because they pierce their own larvae to drink their "blood", called haemolymph, for nourishment.

As a result, many of their larvae have scars, although the behaviour is not fatal to them.



PHOTOS: MARK WONG

Trap-jaw ants

Ants from the genus Odontomachus got their name from their ability to open their mandibles (mouthpieces) up to 180 degrees wide, and snap them shut very quickly . They use this snapping action to capture prey, as well as to propel themselves into the air to escape from threats.

Sources: Mark Wong, Wendy Wang, Scientific American

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2016, with the headline 'Interesting species in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe