The control of mandible movements in the ant Odontomachus

Stefan Just, Wulfila Gronenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Ants use their mandibles to manipulate many different objects including food, brood and nestmates. Different tasks require the modification of mandibular force and speed. Besides normal mandible movements the trap-jaw and Odontomachus features a particularly fast mandible reflex during which both mandibles close synchronously within 3 ms. The mandibular muscles that govern mandible performance are controlled by four opener and eight closer motor neurons. During slow mandible movements different motor units can be activated successively, and fine tuning is assisted by co-activation of the antagonistic muscles. Fast and powerful movements are generated by the additional activation of two particular motor units which also contribute to the mandible strike. The trap-jaw reflex is triggered by a fast trigger muscle which is derived from the mandible closer. Intracellular recording reveals that trigger motor neurons can generate regular as well as particularly large postsynaptic potentials, which might be passively propagated over the short distance to the trigger muscle. The trigger motor neurons are dye-coupled and receive input from both sides of the body without delay, which ensures the synchronous release of both mandibles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-240
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1999


  • Electrophysiology
  • Motor neuron
  • Muscle
  • Neuroanatomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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