New Spiny Ant Species Named After Game of Thrones Dragons

Posted on July 27, 2016

Pheidole drogon

Scientists have discovered two new species of ants adorned with large spines. The ants belong to the Pheidole ant genus. The ants are named after dragons in the Game of Thrones series which is based on the A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novel series by George R.R. Martin. The ant species names are Pheidole viserion and Pheidole drogon.

The ants are found in the tropical rainforests of New Guinea. The spiky appearance of certain ant species like these was previously thought to be a defense mechanism. The researchers discovered muscle fibers in the neck spines of the ants using micro-CT scans. This suggests the spines may help the ants hold up their massive heads.

Eli Sarnat from the Okinawa Institute of Science & Technology says in a statement, "Once you open up the rotational 3D PDF and see these ants' extraordinary spines, or 'inordinate spinescence' as we phrase it in the study, you can't help but ask why on earth these structures evolved. The most obvious answer is defense, but the internal morphology revealed by this new micro-CT scanning technology suggests that the answer might also have something to do with muscle mechanics and powering the huge heads of the soldier ants."

Pheidole viserion

An image of Pheidole drogon is pictured at the top of this post. The image directly above is of Pheidole viserion. The video below shows a Pheidole drogon specimen.

A research paper on the study was published here in the journal, PLOS One.

Photos: Okinawa Institute of Science & Technology