Trap-jaws revisited: The mandible mechanism of the ant Acanthognathus

Wulfila Gronenberg, C. Roberto, F. Brandäo, Bodo H. Dietz, Stefan Just

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Ants of the genus Acanthognathus stalk small insects and catch their prey by a strike with their long, thin mandibles. The mandibles close in less than 2.5 ms and this movement is controlled by a specialized closer muscle. In Acanthognathus, unlike other insects, the mandible closer muscle is subdivided into two distinct parts: as in a catapult, a large slow closer muscle contracts in advance and provides the power for the strike while the mandibles are locked open. When the prey touches specialized trigger hairs, a small fast closer muscle rapidly unlocks the mandibles and thus releases the strike. The fast movement is steadied by large specialized surfaces in the mandible joint and the sensory-motor reflex is controlled by neurones with particularly large, and thus fast-conducting, axons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-240
Number of pages14
JournalPhysiological Entomology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998


  • Acanthognathus
  • Catch mechanism
  • Fast movement
  • Functional morphology
  • Mandible joint
  • Movement control
  • Trap jaws

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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