Bullet Ant

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Paraponera is a genus of ant consisting of a single species, commonly known as the lesser giant hunting ant, conga ant, or bullet ant (Paraponera clavata), named on account of its powerful and potent sting, which is said to be as painful as being shot with a bullet. It inhabits humid lowland rainforests from Nicaragua south to Paraguay. The bullet ant is called "Hormiga Veinticuatro" or "24 (hour) ant" by the locals, referring to the 24 hours of pain that follow being stung. Workers are 1830 mm long and resemble stout, reddish-black, wingless wasps. Paraponera is predaceous and like all primitive poneromorphs, does not display polymorphism in the worker caste. The queen is not much larger than the workers. The pain caused by this insect's sting is purported to be greater than that of any other Hymenopteran, and is ranked as the most painful according to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, given a 4+ rating, above the tarantula hawk wasp. It is described as causing "waves of burning, throbbing, all-consuming pain that continues unabated for up to 24 hours". It is thought that the ant has evolved this way to ward off any predators who would normally unearth them. A paralyzing neurotoxic peptide isolated from the venom is poneratoxin. It affects voltage-dependent sodium ion channels and blocks the synaptic transmission in the insect central nervous system. It is being investigated for possible medical applications. The Satere-Mawe people of Brazil use intentional bullet ant stings as part of their initiation rites to become a warrior. The ants are first rendered unconscious by submerging them in a natural sedative and then hundreds of them are woven into a glove made out of leaves (which resembles a large oven mitt), stinger facing inward. When the ants regain consciousness, a boy slips the glove onto his hand. The goal of this initiation rite is to keep the glove on for a full ten minutes. When finished, the boy's hand and part of his arm are temporarily paralyzed because of the ant venom, and he may shake uncontrollably for days. The only "protection" provided is a coating of charcoal on the hands, supposedly to confuse the ants and inhibit their stinging. To fully complete the initiation, however, the boys must go through the ordeal a total of 20 times over the course of several months or even years. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]







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