Biting Precision

The localized force of coherence behind evolution often works to astonishing precision, as the sharp jaws of leafcutter ants illustrates.

The piercing and slashing body parts of many small animals are infused with strengthening metals, such as zinc and manganese. The sharp teeth that line the jaws of leafcutter ants are exemplary.

Leafcutter ant teeth are bolstered through the homogeneous distribution of zinc atoms throughout. This uniformity lets ants grow much thinner, sharper blades. These zinc-infused teeth are estimated to reduce the energy needed to cut leaves by 40% – and allow a food source which would otherwise be unattainable.


R.M.S. Schofield et al, “The homogenous alternative to biomineralization: Zn- and Mn-rich materials enable sharp organismal “tools” that reduce force requirements,” Scientific Reports (1 September 2021).

Jake Buehler, “How metal-infused jaws give some ants an exceptionally sharp bite,” Science News (8 September 2021).

Leafcutter ant photo courtesy of Ryan Garrett.