As their name suggests, these ants were huge. Working as a team, they devoured everything in their path.
Meaning of scientific name
Pronunciation of scientific name
Workers 1-3cm long, but queens 5.5cm long with a wingspan of 13cm.
These Eocene giants are the largest ants ever found. They are incredibly well preserved showing that they did not have a sting, and must have sprayed formic acid as a defence. They also had no closing mechanism on their crop - which stores food - and so must have eaten fresh food.
Beautifully preserved fossils have been found in the Messel shales and a very similar species in the nearby Eckfeld Maar in Germany.
They lived on the forest floor in the great expanses of rainforest, which covered the land in the Eocene.
Giant ants fed on any animal that couldn't get out of their way.
Given the huge size of the queens and males, the colonies must have been huge. They ate fresh food and are most likely to have been leaf-cutters (which farm fungus to eat) or carnivorous. Their closest modern relatives are carnivorous, and it is possible that they were the equivalent of modern driver or army ants, butchering animals in huge raiding parties.
They are the largest ant species known.
They lived 44-49 million years ago. Insects are a very ancient group, going back well before the dinosaurs. During the Cretaceous period the first social ants started to make colonies.
A member of the same family as the European red wood ant.