‘Game of Thrones’ dragons inspire scientists to name two new ant species after them

By @ritwikroy1985 on
Game of Thrones
Actress Emilia Clarke arrives at the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscars Party in West Hollywood, California March 2, 2014. Reuters/Danny Moloshok

“Game of Thrones” fans will be excited to know that a new ant species has been named after Drogon, the most fearsome of Khaleesi’s (Emilia Clarke) dragons. The new species has a dragon-like appearance and that inspired scientists to name it after the fire-breathing star of the HBO high-fantasy drama.

The Pheidole drogon has a distinctively large spine and the spiny characteristics of the ant were captured using 3D imaging technology. The researchers employed the technology to identify and document several new ant species.

There was another species discovered and the researchers named it Pheidole viserion, after Khaleesi’s red orange-winged dragon, writes Tech Times.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, is one of the first studies in ant taxonomy to use micro-CT. S tudy co-author Evan Economo, head of the Biodiversity and Biocomplexity Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), said even though this method is being used widely in various scientific fields, it has rarely been used this way.

Taxonomy is the process of “identifying, documenting and naming new species — traditionally involves photographs, drawings and verbal descriptions of the species,” writes Live Science.

In the new method, the researchers used X-ray microtomography, a 3D-imaging technology similar to CT scans performed in hospitals. This enabled them to create virtual representations of the specimen. The digital copies are created so that they can be dissected, archived and also shared.

Due to the use of advanced technologies, scientists can now study Pheidole drogon without having to travel to the tropical rainforests of Papua New Guinea or a museum to see it. The dragon ant was found in Papua New Guinea.

Economo said that using the digital copies is equal to observing the real species and could also be “better than the real thing.” It is because scientists can virtually dissect the specimen and analyse its internal structure on the computer.

The researchers in the study also found that the ants’ spines were filled with muscle and this makes these ants stronger than those who don’t have spines.