USF St. Petersburg campus Faculty Publications


Ambidextrous Mandibles in the Fire Ant Solenopsis invicta.

SelectedWorks Author Profiles:

Deby L. Cassill

Document Type


Publication Date



The elongation and sharp teeth of ant mandibles are considered important adaptations that have contributed to ants successful colonization of terrestrial habitats worldwide. In extant ant species, mandibles function as hunting and defense weapons, as well as multipurpose tools for excavating soil, cutting leaves, capturing and butchering prey, harvesting seeds, and transporting brood. This article reports that the mandibles in the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, are functionally ambidextrous. Individuals opened and closed each mandible in synchrony or independently depending on the requirement of the task at hand. Upon completion of a task, individuals were without a preference in the orientation of mandible overlap—right overlap or left overlap. Orientation of mandible overlap before and after performing a task was also examined in nine other ant species. No overlap orientation preference was observed in any of these ant species, suggesting that ambidextrous mandibles are a universal trait in ants. These findings add an increment of knowledge to the diverse functions of ant mandibles.


Abstract only. Full-text article is available only through licensed access provided by the publisher. Published in Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 102(4), 713-716. Members of the USF System may access the full-text of the article through the authenticated link provided.




Entomological Society of America

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.