Two new ant species have been named after Game of Thrones dragons Viserion and Drogon. The spiked ants, which are very dragon-like, have been named Pheidole drogon and Pheidole viserion.

Pheidole drogon

Here's the video of the black species called Pheidole drogon released by PLOS media on YouTube. As you can see from the volumetric surface rendering rotational video, this ant is a "major worker" (specializing in defense and breaking down food) with a huge head:

Pheidole viserion

This ant is a minor worker, a less specialized "caste" of worker ants. The Pheidole viserion is a gold-hued ant, with colors that resemble the white/gold Viserion dragon from Game of Thrones.

Despite their fearsome appearance, the ants called Pheidole drogon are actually quite shy. As Eli Sarnat from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology recently explained, these ants are usually the first to run away from any kind of danger. The spiky body plan is useful since it may discourage birds from attacking, because the spikes could get stuck in a predator's throat.

The researchers

The new species have been identified by Dr. Georg Fischer, Dr. Eli Sarnat, and Prof. Evan Economo from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, who used cutting-edge 3D-imaging technology to help document several new ant species in papers published in PLOS ONE.

According to Economo, head of OIST's Biodiversity Unit, "this is one of the first studies in ant taxonomy to use micro-CT." Through this technique, an ant is scanned and can be virtually analyzed, dissected, and shared with other scientists around the planet.

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A striking exception

As reported in the abstract of Sarnat, Fiscer, and Economo's study titled Inordinate Spinescence: Taxonomic Revision and Microtomography of the Pheidole cervicornis Species Group, "The ant genus Pheidole—for all of its hyperdiversity and global ubiquity—is remarkably conservative with regard to morphological disparity. A striking exception to this constrained morphology is the spinescent morphotype, which has evolved multiple times across distantly related lineages of Indoaustralian Pheidole."