New 'dragon' ant species are named after 'Game of Thrones' characters

Scientists Announce Discovery Of New 'Game Of Thrones' Dragon Ant Species

Meet Drogon and Viserion, the dragon ants.

In a paper published today in PLOS One, researchers describe two new species of ants from New Guinea.

The new ant species are members of the widespreadPheidole genus, a type of ant found all over the world, and known for its large heads. But in addition to their big heads, these two species have huge spikes on their backs.



Pheidole drogon minor worker (left) and Pheidole drogon major worker (right)

The researchers decided that the spikes bore a distinct resemblance to the adornments of the dragons from "Game of Thrones," and named them accordingly. The new species are Pheidole viserion and Pheidole drogon. (Sorry, Rhaegal, today's not your day).

Of course, their size means that they look less like this version of their namesakes:


And more like this one:


Aww. Cute little bloodthirsty dragons.

Researchers speculate that in addition to being an imposing defense mechanism, the spikes may also contain musculature that helps the ants hold up their large heads.

As a part of the identification process, the ants were scanned using a specialized CT scanner — just like the kind used in medical settings, but able to scan smaller objects, like these ants. Though this isn't the first time this method has been used, it is among the first, and researchers hope that more widespread use of these scans will make it easier for researchers to identify new species like these ants in the wild.

"If you are working in the bush in Africa and find an ant that you want to identify, it is really difficult to fly all the way to a museum in Europe or the U.S. to see collections of already known species," Georg Fischer, a co-author on the paper said. "This way you can download the virtual ant, make measurements, and compare it to the specimen you are trying to identify."

And take a look back at species that were discovered in 2015:
New species discovered in 2015
See Gallery
New species discovered in 2015
This vampire crab, Geosesarma dennerle, was discovered in Java, Indonesia earlier this year. (Photo via Chris Lukhaup/Raffles Bulletin of Zoology)
Leucothoe eltoni, a crustacean discovered in Raja Ampat, Indonesia this year, was named after Elton John. (Photo via James Thomas) 
The sea slug, Phyllodesmium acanthorhinum, was discovered off the coast of Japan. (Photo via Robert Bolland)
The "Italian Mountain Cicada" was discovered earlier this year, and is found between southern Switzerland and central Italy. (Photo via Thomas Hertach)
A miniaturized frog found in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. (Photo via Luiz Fernando Ribeiro) 
The bush cricket was misplaced in a museum until it was rediscovered by an intrepid researcher looking through lost collections. (Photo via Bruno Massa)
The African Golden Wolf was found to be its own species after an exhaustive DNA analysis by researchers. (Photo via D. Gordon E. Robertson)
Peckoltia greedoi, a new species of catfish discovered in Brazil was lovingly named after the Star Wars character Greedo. (Photo via Auburn University)
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