Many people do not know that ants have mandibles on their heads, and they do have teeth-like structures attached to the external mandibles.
How Many Teeth Do Ants Have? Ants have 2 to 8 teeth on their two external mandibles and are attached to their head. They are curved and coated with zinc for sharpness that helps bite their prey and pierce through the skin. Moreover, they can help chew and carry food, build nests, and feed colony members. Furthermore, they use these for cleaning bodies and displacing heavy objects.
They need strength to break the hard grains, hit their predator, and push heavy objects while navigating the surroundings. Ants cannot regrow their teeth if they are broken.
Accordingly, their sharp teeth look like pincers used for tearing the skin and provide enough power to deal with different challenges in their life.
How many teeth are present in ants?
They have teeth-like structures in their mouth, but they differ from higher animals. Ants have external mandibles, but animals have internal ones present inside the mouth.
It is challenging to access the actual size of these appendages extending outward because the overall size of these creatures is only 0.8 to 50 mm.
These mandibles are not clearly seen with the naked eye until you bring them closer to your eyes and use a magnifying object to look at their head closely.
Commonly, these insects have only two sharp teeth on the exterior surface of their mouth, while a few species have more than one, as they have evolved themselves over time.
Southern and red imported fire ants have 2 and 3 teeth, while 6 to 8 are present in carpenter ants and argentine ants.
All of them are arranged on the two mandibles extending from the mouth and help maintain a grip on their prey’s body.
Why do ants need teeth?
Teeth are an essential part of an insect’s body as they are involved in crucial functions of their life, including food grinding and digestion, defense against predators, and construction of nests.
Grinding and chewing food
They need teeth to break the larger food chunks into fine particles for easier consumption and digestion. Some feed on leaves and need a sharp structure to cut the leaf and break it down.
They cannot eat a whole worm or a larger piece of leave due to a small mouth. Accordingly, these can help chew the leaves and flesh from dead animals to put them inside their mouth.
In addition, high impact with sharp appendages can help them crush the granules of sugar and grains of food by throwing them inside the gut.
It becomes easy for their stomach to break and digest complex food particles when their size is small and surface area is large.
Furthermore, fine particles can easily pass through the gut to extract nutrients and be excreted out of their bodies, or indigested particles are kept inside crops.
Ants rely on their pincers and mandibles for capturing their prey because it is essential to get a firm hold on their bodies for the attack.
They are used to capture the legs of prey to avoid movement because they put sharp mandibles inside the skin or legs. It allows targeted stinging on the prey’s body to kill it quickly.
It becomes challenging or nearly impossible to capture prey because these work like arms as they do not have forelegs for grasping the objects.
Furthermore, these sharp teeth can help remove the head of preying insects or worms, facilitate feeding on their bodies and store the tiny body parts inside chambers.
Clean their bodies
While foraging, insects can reach every house corner and pass through different places, including narrow spaces and dirty garbage bins.
The tiny bodies of ants get dirty because the food particles or soil get attached to them. This help remove dirt from the exoskeleton or head region.
These structures can also remove particles from the bodies of nest mates as they help each other in keeping bodies clean to avoid the risk of infection.
Moreover, they are adapted to secrete saliva from their mouth, an antimicrobial substance that helps get rid of harmful bacteria and germs.
Ants cannot support larvae growth without using their mandibles because they have to break or soften the hard particles before feeding.
They use teeth to put the food particles inside their mouth and shift them into different compartments. The attending or nursing members have to move pupae and larvae to other places.
Moreover, hanging their fourth instar larvae is a common behavior of these tiny creatures as it becomes easy to feed them.
The head, legs, and mandibles help ants to attach larvae to the walls of chambers built inside their nests. It provides space for new larvae and eggs and makes it easy to put food in their mouth.
Fight for defense
They do not tolerate any interference in their territory and fight to protect their resources and nest members. Their poisonous secretions and sharp mandibles are weapons during a war.
It is challenging for these insects to fight for their defense when a larger organism is on its opposite end.
However, their strong teeth coated with zinc can help defeat even a bigger predator.
Most commonly, these insects are used to inject these hard structures into the bodies of predators or prey to make them feel helpless and bite their skin tissues.
Construction of underground nests requires a lot of effort and consistency because these tiny insects can displace a small quantity of soil at one time.
Moreover, wood ants use their mandibles to chew the wooden pieces and throw sawdust on the floor. Some chew caulk in windows and break the seals to get inside the house to reach a warm place.
The pavement ants use teeth to grind the hard concrete and chew electrical wires to build a nest under the concrete floor.
How do ants make their teeth strong?
Ants need sharp and strong teeth to perform activities from nest construction to killing prey.
They extract zinc atoms from their food to cover mandibles with a thick layer and make them hard or sharp.
Moreover, it allows them to make deep cuts on predator bodies by injecting them into the skin.
In addition, almost 1.5 to 2mm thick zinc coating allows them to make less effort to do heavy damage. This coating increases their capability to bite and avoid damage.
However, it is better to know that they cannot get their teeth back if they are broken during a serious war or fight because adult insects cannot regrow their organs.