Published: Thu, May 18, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

'T. rex' ant discovered in Singapore

'T. rex' ant discovered in Singapore

That's right, this ant, in desperate times, will turn to cannibalism to get by.

So, when National Geographic Young Explorer and entomologist Mark Wong and his colleague Gordon Yong, an entomologist at the National University of Singapore, stumbled upon the ants' hideaway in March a year ago while surveying Singapore's forested Mandai area, they knew they had something important.

Despite being discovered over 20 years ago, the Asian ants have never before been seen alive.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore came across a colony while studying ant populations in the North of the country back in March 2016.

The ants also refused any of the foods offered to them, so what they survive on in the wild remains a mystery. Since T. Rex ants live under the ground in a "presumably pathogen-rich environment", explains Wong, the absence of these glands is "truly puzzling".

Named after the huge carnivorous dinosaur Tyrannosaurus rex, T. rex ants has previously eluded scientists, with only a handful of deceased ants found since 2003, according to National Geographic. The explorer named the tiny creature after an enormous dinosaur because its undersized mandibles reminded him of the arms of a T. Rex. Since then, other dead T. Rex ants have been seen in Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, and possibly the Philippines, all accidentally found in leaf litter.

There's, of course, plenty more to find out about the ants and their habitat, which Wong noted has not been sufficiently studied - pieces of moist, rotting wood submerged in soil.

The genus of ant was first discovered in Malaysia in 1994 and was named after the fearsome king of the dinosaurs Tyrannosaurus Rex. But researchers have found the ants are unlike their namesake in every way except their ability to turn to
'T. rex' ant discovered in Singapore

They did, however, find that the younger males when faced with a lack of food.

Both scientists collected an entire live colony and observed them for 10 days.

'The suspected nocturnal activity patterns of Tyrannomyrmex species may further reduce their chances of being discovered'.

They do sting, however, if their "hand" is forced - in other words, if the threat facing them is really significant. They are not aggressive.

Twitter 'The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah.

The National Geographic reported on May 16 that the ants demonstrated a "timid" behavior during the entomologists' experiments. But strangely enough, the colony cannibalized its sole male, leaving the researchers perplexed about the act.

The researchers now hope to study the creatures in more detail.

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