Spiky new ant species is named after Game of Thrones dragons
Two newly named species of ant from New Guinea have big spines behind their necks that are full of muscle, which could help supporting their giant heads
Species: Pheidole drogon and Pheidole viserion
Habitat: Papua New Guinea
This ant may look like a fearsome dragon, but it can be a shy little thing. It is one of two newly described ant species from Papua New Guinea, and has some of the most impressive spikes among the widespread Pheidole genus of ants – found on every continent north of Antarctica.
Pheidole ants have more than one “caste” of worker ants – often, an all-purpose caste called a minor worker (see picture above) and a more specialised major worker for defence or breaking down food (see picture below).
The major workers in these two species have enormous heads, while the minor workers are smaller and have longer spines relative to their size, says Eli Sarnat at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan, who along with his colleagues has described the ants.
Because of the ants’ fearsome look, the team has named them after dragons from the Games of Thrones series. The jet-black species is called Pheidole drogon after Drogon, the beast of the same colour, and the gold-hued Pheidole viserion is named after the white and gold Viserion.