Thirty-three new ant species have been discovered in Central America and the Caribbean that their finder called "the stuff of nightmares." University of Utah entomologist Jack Longino said in a statement Monday that the 33 predatory ant species are so fearsome-looking that he has already named about a third of them after Mayan lords and demons.
Check some of the photos that Dr. Longino kindly supplied and see for yourself. The side photo up top doesn't look too scary... but then scroll down to check out some heads-on shots.
On Monday, he published descriptions of 14 new ant species in the Eurhopalothrix genus in the online science journal Zootaxa. In an as-yet-unpublished article in the same journal, he will also soon describe 19 more new ants in the Octostruma genus.
The clearly enthusiastic Longino is proud of his fearsome finds: "Their faces are broad shields, the eyes reduced to tiny points at the edges and the fierce jaws bristling with sharp teeth.
"They look a little like the monster in Alien. They're horrifying to look at up close..."
Although a still photograph doesn't show the feature to advantage, he noted that some of the new species are especially horrifying when they're chewing because their jaws don't work up and down like ours do.
Instead, the jaws move from side to side -- something that Longino said really creates "a movie monster that freaks people out."
If you're wondering how such amazing specimens went unnoticed before, well, there's a reason. The nearly-blind predators are actually tiny creatures that live hidden in forest leaf litter. They're smaller than a rice grain ranging in size from one-twelfth to one-twenty-fifth of an inch long.
It isn't Longino's first time in the forest. With the 33 new finds added to his list, he can now claim credit for the discovery of a total of 131 new ant species.
[All Photos of the new ant species by John T. Longino, University of Utah]