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Alien ant

·1 min

It’s no wonder some researchers have dubbed this insect the “ant from Mars.” With its mucousy color, lack of eyes, and forceps-like mandibles, taxonomists had a hard time classifying this single specimen, captured crawling through the dirt of a Brazilian rainforest in 2003. Now, genetic analysis has given the 3-millimeter-long ant a proper identity–and a place among its brethren. The critter evolved between 180 million and 150 million years ago, researchers report online 15 September in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, meaning that it represents the oldest known lineage of ants on Earth. And as for the name, researchers have chosen Martialis heureka: “Martialis,” a reference to Mars, and “heureka” as in “we found it!”