What’s in a Name

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Thirty-three new types of ants have been identified by University of Utah professor Jack Longino. All of the species are extremely small ants found in small patches in the forests of Central America, but while they may seem non-threatening from afar, up close they are frightening.

Many of the species were named after Mayan deities or monsters, tying together their local heritage and appearance. For example, Eurhopalothrix zipacna, is named for a Mayan demon that resembles a crocodile and Eurhopalothrix xibalba, means "place of fear," referring to the Mayan underworld.

Longino has discovered 131 species of ants during his career but calls this group the "stuff of nightmares…They look a little like the monster in 'Alien.'"