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Mother of All Ants Found in The Amazon September 19, 2008
Photo of ancient ant species
Martialis heureka belongs to the first new subfamily of living ants discovered since 1923.
Scientists have unearthed an ancient ancestor of ants from the soil of the Amazon rain forest that is probably the species from which all other ants evolved.

University of Texas at Austin evolutionary biologist Christian Rabeling, who discovered the blind, subterranean and predatory ant, dubbed it Martialis heureka, or “ant from Mars,” because of its alien characteristics.

Genetic analysis revealed that it is of a new species, genus and subfamily — the first such ant discovery since 1923.

It also appears to be from the very base of the family tree for all the world’s ants.

Ants evolved about 120 million years ago from wasp-like ancestors, then rapidly evolved specific characteristics to live in different environments.

Martialis heureka has survived relatively unchanged by remaining hidden underground in a stable tropical environment, free of competition from other ants, Rabeling wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Photo: Christian Rabeling - University of Texas at Austin