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Odontomachus from India
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Genus: Odontomachus
Latreille, 1804

see text

> 60 species


Odontomachus is a genus of carnivorous ants found in the tropics and subtropics throughout the world.


head of O. hastatus

Commonly known as trap-jaw ants, species in Odontomachus have a pair of large, straight mandibles capable of opening 180 degrees. These jaws are locked in place by an internal mechanism, and can snap shut on prey or objects when sensory hairs on the inside of the mandibles are touched. The mandibles are powerful and fast, giving the ant its common name. The mandibles either kill or maim the prey, allowing the ant to bring it back to the nest. Odontomachus can simply lock and snap its jaws again if one bite is not enough, or to cut off bits of larger food. The mandibles also permit slow and fine movements for other tasks such as nest building and care of larvae.

Speed record[edit]

Trap-jaw ants of this genus have the fastest moving predatory appendages within the animal kingdom.[1] One study of Odontomachus bauri recorded peak speeds of between 126–230 kilometres per hour (78–143 mph), with the jaws closing within just 130 microseconds on average. The peak force exerted was in the order of 300 times the body weight of the ant. The ants were also observed to use their jaws as a catapult to eject intruders or fling themselves backwards to escape a threat and stings 1 time.[1][2]


The jumping spider genus Enoplomischus seems to mimic this ant genus.


Odontomachus species are found in Central to South America, tropical Asia, Australia, and Africa.


This species list is taken mostly from (Bolton 1995).

O. haematodus worker
O. haematodus larva


  1. ^ a b Patek SN, Baio JE, Fisher BL, Suarez AV (22 August 2006). "Multifunctionality and mechanical origins: Ballistic jaw propulsion in trap-jaw ants" (PDF). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103 (34): 12787–12792. doi:10.1073/pnas.0604290103. PMC 1568925. PMID 16924120. Retrieved 7 June 2008. 
  2. ^ Ant Jaws Break Speed Record — Videos of Odontomachus jumping using its jaws


External links[edit]