Jack Longino, a biology professor at the University of Utah, recently published two papers describing 33 new species of ants. Nicknamed “the astonishing ant man” by his students, Dr. Longino’s total number of discovered ant species is now 131, after having already discovering 98 species previously.
“These new ant species are the stuff of nightmares” when viewed under a microscope, he said. “Their faces are broad shields, the eyes reduced to tiny points at the edges and the fierce jaws bristling with sharp teeth. They look a little like the monster in ‘Alien.’ They’re horrifying to look at up close. That’s sort of what makes them fun.”
The horrifying appearance of these ants prompted him to name many of them after demons. For example, Eurhopalothrix zipacna was named after a violent, crocodile-like Mayan demon, and Eurhopalothrix hunhau was named after a Mayan death god.
The new ant species are less than one-twelfth to one-twenty-fifth of an inch long -– much smaller than a rice grain or common half-inch-long household ants –- and live in the rotting wood and dead leaves that litter the forest floors in Central America.
This video interview with Dr. Longino, “The Astonishing Ant Man,” was made in 2011:
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The first article by Dr. Longino: