Two new species of ants have been named after two characters from the ever-famous Game of Thrones series. Everybody knows what Game of Thrones is. According to statics, the average gross viewing figure per episode is over 25 million, making it the second most-viewed HBO series of all time.

For show and book fans, the names Drogon and Viserion are common. They are two of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons, named after her late husband Khal Drogo and new brother Viserys Targaryen. And now Game of Thrones’s fans have something else to rejoice for: Drogon and Viserion are real. A team of scientists has discovered two new species of ants in Fiji and Papua New Guinea; the research was published Wednesday in the Journal PLOS ONE.

The ants have been discovered with the help of a major technique that uses 3D imaging technology to identify insects. Image Credit: The Conversation

The ants are spiky, and the authors of the study, Georg Fischer, Eli Sarnat and Evan Economo, who are all fans of the HBO series, though they looked eerily familiar. And so, the two new species have been called Pheidole Drogon and Pheidole Viserion.

A spiky issue

The spikes not only make the ants look like tiny versions of blood-thirsty dragons, but they might also change how scientist see ants.

Eli Sarnat spoke with The Christian Science Monitor, stating that it is commonly thought that the spines are for defense against predators, getting hooked in the throats of reptiles, birds or frogs alike.

However, these ants have two categories, major workers, and minor workers. The minors have the size of an average ant, but the major have huge heads with very impressive jaws.

Sarnat thought that the spines perhaps existed to make more space for even bigger muscles that could support the mandibles without breaking the ant head.

Testing the hypothesis

Using micro-computed tomography (a 3D X-ray), the scientists scanned the ants, looking at the internal structure without killing them.

The results showed that the muscles appeared only in the major workers’ shoulders, confirming Sarnat theory.

However, the scientist does not think the spines are very useful in present times.

“Certainly, it seems that over time these spines did develop to help against predation, but it could’ve been a scenario where they first evolved as adaptations for head support and then once they existed, they got co-opted for defense against predators,” stated Sarnat to The Christian Science Monitor.

How the names came to be

Initially, Sarnat wanted to call the ants in a ‘traditional’ way. His wife suggested the Latin translation of ‘split thorns,’ however, he then realized his ants deserved a ‘more standout name’ according to his declarations to The Christian Science Monitor.

Co-author Evan Economo then suggested ‘Drogon’ as the name. He said it originally as a joke, but since the species are jet black and spiked, they looked the part.

The other species are gold, and so, resembled the white and gold Viserion.

The scientists are now planning to use the micro-computed tomography scanning to examine different creatures, with the aim of studying evolutionary relationships.

Eventually, the research could help shedding light on the complicated relationship between the function and the form in the evolution of insects.

Source: Christian Science Monitor