Ants, insects of the phylum Arthropoda, are some of the most populous animals on earth. Their bodies are structured to withstand attack, flooding and even the occasional swat at the family picnic. As with all insects, ants' bodies are divided into three main parts: the head, thorax and abdomen.
An ant’s head is the sensory capital of its body. Ants have two elbowed antennae near the front of their heads, which they use to smell and touch the world around them. Unlike other insects, ants' antennae are bent in half. Ants use their mandibles, or jaws, to dig, carry, collect food and build nests. As for sight, most ants have two prominent compound eyes that contain hundreds of lenses that combine to form a single image in the brain. However, they also have three simple eyes in between the two larger eyes called ocelli, which detect light and shadow.
The thorax, also called the mesosoma, makes up the middle of an ant’s body. The thorax is located behind the head and in front of the abdomen. It is a powerful, muscular hub. Each of an ant’s six jointed legs is attached to the thorax. Ant legs are designed for running; the creature can run quite fast for his size. Two hooked claws at the end of each leg allow the ant to grip, climb and hang. Queens and males also have temporary wings built for flying; however, they are generally torn off during or after mating.
The petiole is one of the body parts that distinguishes ants from other insects; the other being elbowed antennae. It lies between the thorax and abdomen, and allows the ant flexibility for twisting and burrowing underground. It’s akin to the hingelike function of a waist in humans.
Ants' abdomens, also called gasters, hold their vital and reproductive organs, including a heart that pumps colorless blood and a digestive system often used for regurgitation. Worker ants of certain species also carry stingers on the backs of their abdomens to inject venom into enemies.
Though not technically a body part, an ant’s exoskeleton is a crucial part of his body structure. An arthropod, the ant wears a suit of armor of sorts. The ant’s exoskeleton, a hard, waterproof body covering, is made of a glucose-based material called chitin. The exoskeleton serves to protect an ant’s delicate muscle and soft tissue.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.