“Ghostly” – Scientists have discovered a mysterious shadow creature in Australia

In the Pilbara region of Australia, a new species of ant, Leptanella voldemort, has been discovered. They are distinguished by their pale, slender shape and their underground habitat, highlighting the unique biodiversity and ecological secrets of this ancient landscape. Credit: Mark K. L. Wong, Jane M. McRae

In the sunny Pilbara region of northwestern Australia, researchers have discovered a mysterious creature from the shadows – a new ant Classify Of unattainable sex leptanella.

new species, Leptanella VoldemortVoldemort blamed In short – a pale ant with a slender build, long legs and a long, sharp jaw. The species' name pays tribute to the dark wizard Lord Voldemort, the fearsome antagonist of the Harry Potter series, and draws comparisons with the ghostly, slender appearance of ants and the dark underground environment from which they emerge.

Scientists Dr Mark Wong of the University of Western Australia and Jane McRae of environmental consultancy Bennelongia describe the mysterious new species in a paper published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

A full view of Leptanella Voldemort's face

A full view of Leptanella Voldemort's face, showing his sharp lower jaw. Credit: Mark K. L. Wong, Jane M. McRae

Leptanella Voldemort It was discovered during an environmental survey documenting animals living underground in the arid Pilbara region of northwestern Australia. Only two specimens of new and strange ant species have been found. They were collected in a net that was lowered into a 25-metre-deep hole, and were skillfully recovered while scraping on the inner surface of the hole, an innovative technique for collecting underground organisms known as “subterranean scraping”.

Unique characteristics and speculation

Compared to others leptanella types of ants, Voldemort blamed It has a very slender body as well as long, fusiform antennae and legs. Combined with its collection of 25-metre-deep drill holes, this unusual shape has left experts speculating about whether it really dwelled in the soil like the others. leptanella species, or exploit various underground refuges, such as air-filled voids and cracks that form within layers of rock deep underground.

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Long and sharp jaws Voldemort blamedHowever, it leaves little to the imagination.

Two individuals of Voldemort's Leptanella were collected in the Pilbara

Two individuals of Voldemort's Leptanella were collected in the Pilbara. Credit: Mark K. L. Wong, Jane M. McRae

Leptanella Voldemort It is almost certainly a predator, a fearsome hunter in the dark. This is supported by what we know from the few observations of specialized hunting behaviors in other countries leptanella “Little workers use their sharp jaws and powerful stings to immobilize much larger soil-dwelling centipedes, before carrying their larvae to feed on the carcass,” said Dr Wong, lead author of the study.

Micro prey l Voldemort blamedHowever, it is not known, although another underground variety Invertebratesincluding centipedes, beetles and flies, were collected from the same area.

Context of discovery

There are more than 14,000 species of ants worldwide, but only about 60 of them belong to the mysterious genus leptanella. Unlike most ants, all ant species leptanella They are underdeveloped – their small colonies, usually consisting of a queen and only a hundred or so workers, nest and feed exclusively underground. To adapt to life in the dark, leptanella The workers are blind and colorless. Dwarf Members of the Ant World These ants are only 1 to 2 millimeters long – not much larger than a grain of sand – allowing them to move easily through the soil. Due to their small size, pale color, and unique underground dwellings, they were discovered leptanella These species represent a challenge even for expert ant scientists, and much of their biology remains shrouded in mystery.

Pilbara landscape

General view of the Pilbara region. Credit: Mark K. L. Wong, Jane M. McRae

While Australia boasts some of the highest levels of ant diversity in the world – with estimates ranging from 1,300 to over 5,000 species – Voldemort blamed It's only the second leptanella Species discovered from the continent. the first, Leptanella suaniIt was described nearly a century ago — in a small colony found under a rock in 1931 — and has almost never been seen since.

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Beginning its formation about 3.6 billion years ago, the Pilbara is one of the oldest land surfaces on Earth. Despite scorching summers and little rainfall, the area harbors globally important rays of underground invertebrates. Adding to the unique biodiversity of this ancient landscape is the discovery of the mysterious ant Voldemort blamed It is a testimony to the magic of nature and the secrets of life in the depths of darkness.

Reference: “Leptanilla voldemort sp. november, a new agile species of the ant genus Leptanella (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) from the Pilbara, with the key to Leptanella australis” by Mark K. L. Wong and Jane M. McRae, 11 April 2024, ZooKeys.
doi: 10.3897/zookeys.1197.114072

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