5 May 2011

Giant ant fossils found

6:38 am on 5 May 2011

American scientists have found fossilised remains of one of the biggest ant species ever to have lived on earth.

Measuring about 5cm with a large rear end, the Titanomyrma lubei ant is thought to have lived about 50 million years ago.

Fossils were unearthed in ancient lake sediments in Wyoming, US.

The BBC reports the species appears very similar to fossils found in Germany and in the Isle of Wight in southern England dating from the same period.

Little is known about how these ants lived or what they ate - but wings were present on the fossils.

They are found, in Europe and now in Wyoming, close to plants known to thrive only in temperatures around 20C (70F).

The biggest extant equivalents are the driver ants of the Dorylus genus, found in Central and East Africa, which can also grow to 5cm long.