The fossils of hell ants with their prey are preserved intact in a 99 million year old amber.
Identify hell and ancient cockroaches trapped in amber. Photo: Newsweek.
The hell ant that lived 99 million years ago was trapped in a tiger mass while killing the cockroach’s prehistoric relatives. Ants called Ceratomyrmex ellenbergeri is one of 16 species of geotubes that researchers discovered in the world.
Hell ants are known through amber mines dating back 78-100 million years in Canada, France and Myanmar. They are an unusual insect with many body features unlike any other ant today. According to entomologist Phillip Barden of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, who led the study, the first part of hell ants is completely different from the 15,000 species of ants known today. The amber specimen containing hell corpses and cockroaches was found in 2017 in the state of Kachin, Myanmar. Barden and colleagues published the results of fossil analysis in the journal Current Biology on August 6.
Barden says C. ellenbergeri uses a long horn and a set of jaws to grip its prey. “After the prey is held in this way, the hell ant can come and sting it to immobilize it. We know the stinger of the hell ant is very developed. Stapling of prey helps confirm hell ants. move the jaws up and down, unlike today’s living ants, “explains Barden.
Stored hunting like this is extremely rare, researchers say. Usually, fossilization erases any evidence of predatory behavior as organs shift and decompose. Researchers believe that hell ants disappeared with the dinosaurs during the great extinction event 66 million years ago. The team hopes to find more species of hell ants to understand the impact of the extinction event on their morphology.
(According to Newsweek)