World’s Snappiest Creature Award August 6, 2007Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Animals, Easy As Pie, Insects.
The award for the world’s snappiest creature goes to the termite. A measly little creature, it snaps its jaws with a strength and speed rivaling all other animals. Formally known as Termes Panamensis, the termite’s jaws have some special properties that provide its power and speed.
Who Figured That One Out?
The news was recently announced at the Eighth International Congress of Neuroethology in Vancouver, Canada – close to home for my fellow British Columbian readers. Marc Seid and Jeremy Niven of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama filmed the termite’s jaws at 40,000 frames per second, showing a speed of 70.4 meters per second over a distance of 1.76 millimeters!
A Threatened Termite
When challenged by an intruder, a termite will use four sets of enormous muscles to aggressively smash the bits of its mouth together. In fact, these muscles are so massive that they take up half the space in the termite’s head. All of this power and force then lets the termite rapidly snap at the intruder. Also, the termite’s teeth work like a saw, biting with razor-like strength, which is propelled by those strong muscles.
Now don’t go and get any ideas about trying to beat out the termite by practicing your own snapping skills. I really don’t need any of your parents emailing me to complain about your chipped teeth!
Credit: Pictures provided by the United States Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service.