Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Mandible muscle fibers in ants: fast or powerful?

  • 342 Accesses

  • 45 Citations

Abstract.

Ants use their mandibles for catching prey, cracking seeds, cutting leaves, or for the construction of nests and the tender care of brood. The functional morphology of the mandibles reflect the species’ adaptations to particular foraging habits and social life. The versatility and specialization of the mandibles depend directly on the design and physiology of the mandible closer muscles and their component fibers. A comparative video analysis of the closing movements of ant mandibles revealed that the maximal velocity varies considerably among species. The speed is correlated with the morphology of the mandible closer muscle, the largest muscle in ants. It is composed of two morphologically very distinct fiber types: long fibers with short sarcomeres (sarcomere length approximately 2 μm) showing all the structural attributes of fast muscle fibers, and shorter fibers with longer sarcomeres (sarcomere length approximately 5 μm) exhibiting the characteristics of slow and powerful fibers. Ants with fast-moving mandibles have a very high proportion of fast closer fibers, whereas the muscles of ants that cannot perform fast mandible movements have only a few or no fast fibers at all. Fast fibers always attach directly to the solid apodeme, while slow fibers often attach to thin apodeme threads. We suppose that the latter kind of fiber attachment is disadvantageous for fast contracting fibers but helps the ants to make better use of the space in the head capsule.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Author information

Additional information

Received: 2 November 1996 / Accepted: 15 December 1996

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Gronenberg, W., Paul, J., Just, S. et al. Mandible muscle fibers in ants: fast or powerful?. Cell Tissue Res 289, 347–361 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1007/s004410050882

Download citation

  • Key words: Mandibles
  • Muscle fibers
  • Fiber types
  • Contraction
  • Ant species (Insecta)