If you're an insect, don't mess with the trap-jaw ant Odontomachus bauri. Like other Odontomachus, it uses its massive jaws to attack prey and defend against predators. The jaws are slowly drawn back and held open by catches in its head, springing forward when the catches are released at speeds exceeding 60 metres a second. This is faster even than the fearsome claw strikes of mantis shrimps.
"They can literally toss invaders out of the nest with their jaws," says Joseph Spagna of William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey.
By striking against the ground, the jaws can also propel the ants through the air. Spagna says the vertical leaps – which, scaled up, would propel a human more than 10 metres into the air – are an escape response. However, sometimes the ants jump unintentionally when their jaws hit the ground.
Spring-loaded gnashers would be enough of a novelty for most creatures. But it now turns out that O. bauri is also a champion swimmer.