KOLKATA: A group of zoologists has found a new species of ant, which constructs nests like an elaborate maze having horizontal galleries, in the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats.
Named Anochetus daedalus, the species was discovered recently in Karnataka by Bengaluru-based Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE).
The research work has been published in the latest issue of peer-reviewed Current Science journal.
"While walking through community forests in Heggarane village in Sirsi, we stumbled upon a unique mud structure - an elaborate, labyrinthine, and maze like structure on a vertical fall on the forest trail. Curious to know what it could be, we excavated it and found a few ants moving around in horizontal galleries," ATREE's researcher Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan told PTI.
The species are trap jaw ants which have long pincer-like mandibles that snap shut on the prey like a bare trap with such a force that the prey may get cut into pieces.
Anochetus is a genus of carnivorous ants found throughout the world's tropical and and subtropical areas. They form small nests with around 100 individuals in a colony and are very shy and cryptic foraging insects.
Rajan said they found it very close to a species described from Sri Lanka 'Anochetus neitneri' 125 years ago but after that there were no authentic report of this species from anywhere.
After studying the holotype of the species kept in a Berlin museum, they found it is a different species.
"The elaborate construction of the nest entrance is very unique. Considering the labyrinthine mud architecture like a maze puzzle with a single path to its centre, we named the species after the Greek mythological character Daedelus who is said to be the architect of the labyrinth," he said.
Many details about the natural history of these ants such as preparation of clay for the nest, process of construction, the purpose of this elaborate structure, their social life, etc still remain to be understood by science.