WITH BIG MANDIBLES
On my way into the reserve frequently I cross
fast- moving lines of larger-than-normal ants. With their lines, they're unlike the army
ants I spoke of earlier, who move as dark, broad blotches across the forest floor. That
story is archived at http://www.backyardnature.net/chiapas/army-ant.htm.
The ants I'm talking about now move in straight lines several ants wide. Still, I
suspect that they still may be army ants. For one thing, occasionally you'll see a whole
grasshopper or caterpillar being carried along. For another, in this species large soldier
ants patrol the line boundaries, and those soldiers possess enormous, incurved mandibles,
seen at the lower right below:
In that picture the big-mandibled ant is a fully developed soldier, while a less
developed one stands guard at the far left, and smaller black workers stream by at the top
of the picture.
I'm guessing that these are members of the genus ECITON because soldiers of that genus
are famous for bearing very large, incurved mandibles. In some ant genera ants use their
huge mandibles to break seeds but in Eciton they're weapons for protecting the
Looking at the soldier at the lower right you can easily imagine applying the critter
to a cut in your skin, having her clamp down with one mandible on one side of the wound
and the other mandible on the other side, so that the closed mandibles pinch the severed
sides together. At that point with your thumbnail you could decapitate the ant, leaving
the head serving as a suture. I've had this use described to me, though I've never seen
I think I'd rather try closing a wound with my fingers, then apply some strong
spider-webs of the kind we can find here, which also are known for holding wounds closed.