Science/AAAS

Video: Game of Thrones ants sport dragonlike appearance

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll probably spot something familiar in the names of two new ant species found in New Guinea: Pheidole viserion and P. drogon. The insects may not be as large as the dragons they’re named for, but their spiky spines and unusual colors (the former is yellow, and the latter dark red) wouldn’t be out of place in fantasy fiction. The Pheidole ant genus includes more than a thousand species, all of which contain worker ants with oversized heads and jaws that allow them to break up food. But P. viserion and P. drogon—along with a couple other species—also sport spiky spines. Scientists thought the spines were used for defense, but 3D imaging (as seen in the video above) reveals that the spines contain muscle fibers attached to the ants’ heads, which may have allowed them to evolve such large noggins, researchers report today in PLOS ONE. The findings don’t explain, however, why other species with large heads don’t have the spikes; the team says that future research will further explore this new idea.