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The 'jaws' of an ant are know as the Mandibles.

Mandibles are perhaps more specialised in ants than in any other insect. Ants use their mandibles for a diverse range of functions, and are thus constrained by the need to have mandibles which can fulfill a large number of roles. Because of this, ants have evolved spectacular diversity of mandible shapes.

Ants, like most insects, lack grasping forelegs and compensate for this by using their mandibles. Ants use their mandibles to manipulate all sorts of objects, from very small to many times larger and heavier than the ant itself and even liquids as a droplet suspended between the mandibles wether these be food items or otherwise.

In addition to being used to transport food items, mandibles are also used to process the food. Carnivorous ants often use their mandibles to decapitate or dismember their prey, to facilitate feeding or storage. They also use their mandibles to tear, puncture, or grind their food.

Like other social insects, ants construct elaborate nests, using their mandibles to dig into soil or wood. Another use of mandibles in some ants is social carrying, in which one worker will physically carry another worker in its mandibles to aid in recruitment to a food source or new nest site.

The basic mouthparts of insects include the labrum (upper lip), paired mandibles, paired maxillae, and the labium (lower lip). Both the maxillae and labium have sensory palps; the number of palp articles ("segments") are important characters in the identification of ant genera. Like all pterygote insects, ant mandibles have two points of articulation with the head (such mandibles are termed "dicondylic") and are thus constrained to move transversely.

Tags: Morphology & Physiology | Evolution

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