Newly Discovered Giant AntPublished July 4, 2011
Flickr User stephenegg
I must admit that I find the science of Entomology fascinating, but I much prefer learning about most insects from a safe and respectable distance. But lately it appears that stories about ants seem to be crawling out of the woodwork to grab my attention.
While it could just be a coincidence that I’m finding a bunch of these stories, it might also be that I am slightly more sensitive to the Formicidae family. When I was a little girl, the 1956 black and white version of the movie "Them” featuring the onslaught of 6-foot-long ants scared me to death. It left such a permanent impression on my developing brain that just the memory of my first viewing still gives me goose bumps.
It was only a couple of months ago I wrote about those "tiny terrors," the bizarre Zombie Ant that made its home in the Brazilian Rainforest.
So the other day, as I was getting ready to take my afternoon nap for a few minutes of restful oblivion, I could not help but notice the recent edition of “Science News” on the bed. And much to my chagrin, staring me in the face was an article entitled, “Giant Ants Once Roved Wyoming.” Of course all possibility of sleep that afternoon (or perhaps forever) evaporated in an instant when I made the mistake of reading, “It’s not a bird or a plane, but it is an ant the size of a Rufous hummingbird.”
According to paleontologist Bruce Archibald of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, a fossilized giant queen ant was discovered in a 49.5 million-year-old rock in Wyoming. This ranks as the first body part of the giant ant species from the Western Hemisphere.
While Titanomyrma lubei is a newly discovered species, this ant is related to the giant ants found in German fossils before. The ant relatives lend credence to the theory there were hot spots present which permitted the giant insects to freely move between continents.
While larger size ants prefer cooler environments, eight of the largest living species of ants live mainly in tropical areas, according to Dr. Archibald. Climate recreations for the fossils were examined by the research team, with hot spots found where these ancient giant ants also lived.
While searching around storage drawers at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, with his co-author, Kirk Johnson who works at the museum, the new fossil caught the attention of Dr. Archibald. Incredibly, the Wyoming ant that measured 5.1 centimeters long (three inches) but may not be the largest ant. A German specimen is somewhat longer, as are queen Driver ants living in Africa.
For more information visit: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/73880/title/Giant_ants_once_roamed_Wyoming.
But as far as I am concerned, no matter how impressive these diminutive residents of our planet may be in size, they still don’t trump the ants that grew to a length of 6 feet after being exposed to fallout from atom bomb testing in the Nevada desert.
So enjoy your family picnic today! But “caution” is the word for the day, don’t you agree? Share your thoughts in a comment.