Two species of ants discovered in Papua New Guinea are look-alikes of the fabled dragons in Game of Thrones. These ants have tiny barbs on their backs and shoulders.
This resemblance made scientists name the insects after the dragons of Khaleesi. It’s much like the wild beasts coming to life in the form of an insect.
Taxonomy represents the identification, documentation, and classification of new species being discovered. It is an old and basic process in biology. Some of the more traditional methods involve descriptions made with drawings, photographs, or even verbal descriptions.
Researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology made a new survey, using state of the art technology such as 3d imaging, together with more conventional methods.
These technologies helped them discover a couple of new ant species in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea.
By using a method called X-ray microtomography, which is a lot like a hospital CT scan, experts observed smaller animals, like ants, at a very high picture quality.
Professor Economy points out that this is a pioneering study, which uses micro-CT for studying ants. This way, people around the world can download pictures of virtual ants, make their own observations and compare it to the species they want to study.
Experts put 3d imaging to work, to produce galleries and describe the features of the two groups of ants. They also looked at the spines of worker ants to fully understand their role.
Researchers say the ants look dragon-like because they have those unique spines, which are not encountered in other similar species.
At first, everyone thought these spines act as a defense mechanism against other dangerous predators; it turned out the barbs contain muscle, which makes the ants pack more of a punch than other ants without spines.
The muscles in the spines point to the conclusion that these barbs had an essential role in holding up the ants’ huge heads.
The discovery and documentation of new species of animals are something modern people have done, even before Charles Darwin and it is an important part of understanding biology. The new technologies allow a virtual dissection of the specimen, for examining on your computer.
Image Source – Wikipedia