1,100 Words

Breakneck Bite

The jaws of trap-jaw ants can generate forces hundreds of times their body weight and snap shut at speeds reaching 145 miles per hour -- over 2,000 times faster than the blink of an eye. Biologists Sheila Patek and Chi-Yun Kuo are using the micro CT X-ray machine at Duke’s Shared Materials Instrumentation Facility to peer inside the insects’ heads and study the internal structures that power their impressive mandibles. They hope to better understand why some trap-jaw species have larger, broader jaws that crush their prey with greater force, and others have smaller, slender jaws that snap with higher speed.