Hell ants may have skewered prey with vampire-like scythes to drain their “bug blood.”
Locked in amber around the world are countless tiny flowers and small animals ranging from insects to lizards. Among these are hell ants—extinct ants with scythe-like jaws that moved upward in a vertical plane rather than horizontally. However fearsome these sound, you might well wonder how such an ant could eat. Detailed images of a newly discovered species of hell ant in Burmese amber may hold the answer.
All living ants—and lots of fossilized ones—have pincer-like mandibles that converge in front of the face. Their mandibles serve many functions—cutting leaves, digging, carrying their young, and ripping off bits of food from either a plant or dead animal. Since no living ants have vertically oriented mandibles, scientists can’t be certain how hell ants used them, but now they have some good clues.