How does the trap-jaw ant's adaption help it avoid becoming the prey of another organism?
Trap-jaw ants are equipped with powerful mandibles that have a spring-loaded mechanism which enables them snap closed at extremely high speeds. This trap-jaw mechanism has evolved several times in various groups of ants, using different structures to achieve the trap-jaw function.
The mandibles are equipped with ‘trigger hairs’ connected to neurons which spur the mandibles into action as soon as they come in contact with the surface of another object. This enables them to capture prey and fight other ants using their trap-jaw.
Trap-jaw ants can also use their powerful jaws to catapult themselves into the air to evade predators. Typically these jaw jumps propel the ants backwards, flipping them upside down and occasionally making it difficult for them to get away soon enough from a hungry predator.
Recently, scientists have discovered that a species of jaw-ants, Odontomachus rixosus, can use their legs rather than their jaws to jump. This leg jumping, which is also perceived as an adaptive trait, has clear advantages. It can enable them to escape from a predator by jumping forwards rather than backwards.