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When You Cut These Ants In Two, The Zombie Halves Try To Fight Each Other

Updated October 13, 2018 4.4k views11 items

When it comes to venomous ants, few species are more fascinating and vicious than bulldog ants. They have a nasty sting, are very aggressive, and are large enough to be more than a little intimidating. They are so aggressive and territorial that they will even keep fighting after they've been cut in half. In fact, this species becomes something like zombie ants, and when split in two, both halves will try to kill one another.

This might seem farfetched, but bulldog ants, also called myrmecia, are not the only species of ants that attack themselves. The only major difference here is that an individual ant attacks an actual part of itself, in a death battle that can last for many minutes. It's also worth noting that these ants have both venomous stingers, and crushing mandibles, so things can get pretty hardcore.

Believe it or not, there are even more facts about myrmecia ants that make them all the more fascinating. That being said, this is one critter you don't want to mess with, so you're better off just learning about them from afar.

  • They Have One Of The Worst Ant Stings In The Animal Kingdom

    Photo: McKillaboy / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    If you were to come across this ant, somewhere out in Australia, you'd probably be inclined to leave it alone, if for no other reason than it brandishes a pretty big stinger. This stinger produces a venom that is incredibly dangerous to humans, because in certain people it can cause anaphylactic shock and even death. For smaller animals and insects, one sting can cause paralysis. This sting is also viciously painful, because it comes with a dose of formic acid. In fact, the pain levels caused by the bulldog ant are one of the most painful ant stings on earth.

    But hey, maybe the stinger doesn't scare you. That's okay, because these animals also have very powerful mandibles on the front end, and can deliver a powerful and painful bite. When stinging, they will often lead with this bite in order to hold an enemy in place, then arch their rears over their head, and sting. In other words, this ant is dangerous from both the front and the back.

  • When The Ant Is Cut In Two, Both Halves Try To Kill The Other

    Photo: dhobern / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    This information about the jaws and stinger of the ant is particularly noteworthy, because these ants often turn these weapons upon themselves. It has been observed that, when the ant is cut in half, not only does it not die immediately, but it retains its aggression. Except, for both halves of the ant, the new target becomes each other. 

    Starting in 1855, people have observed that, when cut in half, the two halves of the ant will turn on each other, with the stinger trying to sting the head, and the head trying to bite the stinger. They will continue to do this until one side is destroyed, until the two halves of the ant are carried away by others from the colony, or until both sides finally tire themselves out and die. This happened, without fail, every time the experiment was performed, and the fights could last for up to an hour! That begs another question: How is that even possible?

  • They Can Do This Because They Have Many "Brains"

    Photo: patrickkavanagh / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    It may seem impossible for two halves of an animal, upon being separated, to decide to kill each other, but for ants it's actually reasonable. This is because they have more than one "brain." These mini brains are called ganglia, and they run from one end of the insect all the way to the other. It's not exactly a brain the way humans have brains, but it still helps them control their bodies. Their head helps them with things like sight, touch, smell, and more, but the other ganglia help with movement, and all of them react to danger. So, when the ant is cut in half, both halves of the ant still have the ability to move, and they, in a state of distress, do. With both halves of the ant sensing they are in danger, they seek to attack the nearest moving thing that they do not recognize, namely their separated halves. 

  • They Are The Largest Ants In Australia

    Photo: young_einstein / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    If all this wasn't enough to creep you out, keep in mind that this is no small ant, by any means. The bulldog ant is actually the largest ant in Australia, and one of the bigger ants in the world. While the smaller of the ants can be as tiny as eight millimeters in length, bigger ones can grow to forty millimeters in size. That's over an inch and a half of aggressive and violent ant coming at you! Not to mention that queen and worker ants are all roughly the same size, so no one type of bulldog ant is any less intimidating than another. This size means that colonies do not have to be thousands of animals in size in order to ensure survival. Instead, the colonies are only a few hundred individuals in size, but that doesn't make them any less dangerous.