Martialis heureka is a living relic of the earliest stages of ant evolution. Scientists have unearthed an ancient ancestor of ants from the soil of the Amazon rain forest that is probably the species from which all other ants evolved.
University of Texas at Austin evolutionary biologist Christian Rabeling, who discovered the blind, subterranean and predatory ant, dubbed it Martialis heureka, or “ant from Mars,” because of its alien characteristics.
Genetic analysis revealed that it is of a new species, genus and subfamily — the first such ant discovery since 1923.
It also appears to be from the very base of the family tree for all the world’s ants.
Martialis heureka has survived relatively unchanged by remaining hidden underground in a stable tropical environment, free of competition from other ants, Rabeling wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.