New ant species in Caribbean
The University of Utah biologist who identified the insects named about a third of them after ancient Mayan lords and demons.
According to entomologist Jack Longino, the new ant species are “the stuff of nightmares” when viewed under a microscope.
“Their faces are broad shields, the eyes reduced to tiny points at the edges and the fierce jaws bristling with sharp teeth,” he said.
In a study published in the journal Zootaxa, Longino identified and named 14 new species of the ant genus Eurhopalothrix and distinguished them from 14 other previously known species.
The genus name means “eight swellings” for the ants’ eight-segmented antennas.
“The new species were found mostly in small patches of forest that remain in a largely agricultural landscape, highlighting the importance of forest conservation efforts,” Longino said, adding that 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.
They are nearly eyeless and crawl around in leaf litter using primitive compound eyes to detect light but not form images.