For the first time in more than a decade, the extremely rare ‘T. rex’ ant has been spotted — and in Singapore, no less. According to National Geographic, the Tyrannomyrmex rex has not been seen since 2003, when entomologist Fernando Fernández discovered that one dead ant from Malaysia came from a never-before-seen ant genus. (It was the ant’s tiny mandibles that made Fernández think of the short, stubby arms of the Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur).
Over the next few years, a couple of T. rex ants were located in Singapore, India and Sri Lanka, but they were all dead. It was only until recently that National Geographic Young Explorer and entomologist Mark Wong — along with his colleague Gordon Yong, an entomologist at the National University of Singapore — uncovered the first recorded live colony of the T. rex ants in March 2016 around the Mandai area.
But unlike the eponymous dinosaur, these ants exhibited timid behavior when they were brought back to the lab by Wong and Yong. They usually became motionless and fled when other bugs came close, although they possessed a stinger that they would use if any other organism ventured too near to the colony’s eggs and larvae. But strangely enough, the colony cannibalized its sole male, leaving the researchers perplexed about the act.
Wong and Yong have returned to the same area since, but they were unable to locate another colony.