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ant bodies
The bodies of ants are divided into three main parts:
  1. The head
  2. The thorax or mid-section.
  3. The abdomen or gastor.

Three pairs of legs are attached to the thorax, and like all insects, their bodies are encased in a hard, shell-like covering or exoskeleton and their legs are jointed.

The thorax can be broken down into two major parts: the alitrunk which contains the legs and wings, and the petiole which is found directly anterior to the gastor and is found only in ants.

Ants have mandibles (jaws) which are of varied structures. These varied structures provide for a plethora of functions ranging from grasping, tearing, cutting and other special tasks.

Most ants have a stinger at the end of the gastor. Some ants can release this stinger similar to the way honeybees do it. The stinger is only found in female ants and is a modified ovipositor (egg laying organ).

Ants have compound eyes which have not been shown to effect their behavior, although some ants seem to be able to detect movements. They have very sensitive antennae that are used for a wide array of communication.

Nearly all ants have a unique gland found on the petiole called the metapleural gland. Most importantly, this gland has been shown to contain antibacterial and antifungal chemicals which are essential for survival in the humid, dark nests in the ground or rotting vegetation.

This gland secretes an antiseptic substance that at times acts as a repellent to attacking organisms. It is also thought that the metapleural gland releases pheromones for communication.

Their varied mandibles are an irreplaceable tool for accomplishing the jobs necessary for the multiple behaviors displayed by various individuals of colonies.

The metapleural gland excretes antifungal and antibacterial materials that ants spread throughout their colonies through their wanderings. This protects their brood and their food supplies in the humid underground environment.

This entry is located in the following unit: Ant and Related Entomology Terms (page 2)