Published July 21, 2018 | Version v1
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Video of surface rendering of internal head structures in Melissotarsus worker ants, specialised for chewing healthy wood.


  • 1. iEES
  • 1. OIST, Okinawa
  • 2. iEES Paris
  • 3. Universidade de Lisboa
  • 4. Leuven University


Ants of the genus Melissotarsus (subfamily Myrmicinae) inhabit tunnel systems excavated in the wood of living trees, where they keep large numbers of symbiotic armoured scale insects (Diaspididae). Tunnelling through healthy wood requires tremendous power. We investigated morphology of the musculoskeletal system of Melissotarsus using X-ray microcomputed tomography and 3D modelling (Khalife et al. 2018).

Segmented structures inside one half of the head of a Melissotarsus worker: mandible (pale green; tip cut off); closer muscles of mandible (orange); closer apodeme (red); opener muscles of mandible (light blue); opener apodeme (dark blue); brain and suboesophageal ganglion (brown); tentorium and ventromedial phragma (green).

Micro-CT scans were performed at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, Japan.

Segmentation of the reconstructed image stacks was performed with ITK-SNAP 3.6.0

Khalife A, Keller R, Billen J, Hita Garcia F, Economo E & Peeters C (2018) Skeletomuscular adaptations of head and legs of Melissotarsus ants for tunnelling through living wood. Frontiers in Zoology 15: 30.


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