The Reign of the Hell Ants
This ancient species had the same six legs and segmented body that we’d recognize from an ant today. But it also had a huge, scythe-like jaw and a horn coming out of its head. This bizarre predator belonged to a group known as “hell ants.” But they’re gone now, and we’re still trying to figure out why.
Please see the pinned comment for a disclaimer on the ethical issues surrounding Burmese amber in paleontology.
The thumbnail is an illustration of Haidomyrmex by Franz Anthony. Thanks to Franz ( and Ceri Thomas ( for their Hell Ant illustrations featured in this episode!
And special thanks to Phillip Barden and David Grimaldi for providing images from their paper on Cretaceous ants:
Barden, Phillip and David Grimaldi. “Adaptive Radiation in Socially Advanced Stem-Group Ants from the Cretaceous” Current Biology, February 22, 2016
Produced in collaboration with PBS Digital Studios:
Super special thanks to the following Patreon patrons for helping make Eons possible:
Julie Cohen,, Michael Hof, Sean C. Kennedy, Eric Roberto, Rodriguez, Hillary Ryde-Collins, Facts Dinosaurs, Frida, YaBoiSam36, Matthew Donnelly, Yu Mei, Colleen Troussel, Dan Ritter, faxo, Gary Walker, Amanda Straw, Stephanie Tan, Laura Sanborn, simon read, Minyuan Li, Ben Cooper, Leonid, Robert Noah, Matt Parker, Heathe Kyle Yeakley, Jerrit Erickson, Anton Bryl, MissyElliottSmith, Zachary Spencer, Stefan Weber, Andrey, Ilya Murashov, Merri Snaidman, Gabriel Cortez, Marcus Lejon, Robert Arévalo, Todd Dittman, Betsy Radley, Anthony Callaghan, Philip Slingerland, John Vanek, Eric Vonk, Henrik Peteri, Jon Monteiro, James Bording, Miles Chaston, Michael McClellan, Jeff Graham, Maria Humphrey, Daisuke Goto, Gregory Kintz, Chandler Bass, Tsee Lee, Robert Hill
If you'd like to support the channel, head over to and pledge for some cool rewards!
Want to follow Eons elsewhere on the internet?
Facebook -
Twitter -
Instagram -

  • PBS Eons
    PBS Eons

    Hey Eons fans, We just want to let you know that we’re aware of the ethical issues surrounding Burmese amber in paleontology. The specimen of Ceratomyrmex that we describe in the introduction comes from a paper by Barden and colleagues published in 2020, and the authors included the following note about it: “The specimen - from the Hukawng Valley, Kachin State, Myanmar - was deposited in the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (NIGPAS) prior to the 2017 military control of some mine regions (work on this manuscript began in early 2017). The fossil acquired by NIGPAS was collected in full compliance with the laws of Myanmar and China including Regulation on the Protection of Fossils of China. To avoid any confusion and misunderstanding, all authors declare that the fossil reported in this study was not involved in armed conflict and ethnic strife in Myanmar. The specimen is deposited in the public repository NIGPAS and is available for study." We also tried to follow the guidance of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology on Burmese amber in choosing our images for this episode and not use any images of fossils/amber “collected in or exported from Myanmar since June 2017.” Thanks for watching!

    • Joshua Zeeman
      Joshua Zeeman

      @friedman designs you understand that the government pays private contractors to build road and have an agreement to allow the public to use roads. Similarly, insurance, outside of Medicaid and Medicare, is almost entirely private and definitely not socialism. Just because the government is involved in something doesn't mean that it is socialism.

    • J Thomas
      J Thomas

      A Titanosaur was discovered in Argentina in 2021 & it was the largest Animal that ever to walk the the Earth, it was much heavier than the previous giant Titanosaur "Patagotitan Mayorum" & a Previous Record Holder "Argentinosaurus Huinculensis". It was discovered in the a deposit known as the "Candeleros Formation", the fossil was about 98 Million Years Old. This Dinosaur could grow up to 122 metres long & weigh up to 90 tonnes, about the lengh of three School Buses equivalent to that of 18 African Elephants, the Titanosaur could dwarf other Candeleros Sauropods like "Andesaurus", "Rayososaurus", "Nopcsaspodylus" & "Limaysaurus". These Giant Sauropods lived about 98 to 97 Million Years Ago during the Early Cenomanian stage of the Late Cretaceous Period, feeding off of leaves from the tops of the tall trees, massive Carnivores mainly stalked South America & lived during the same time as the Giant Candeleros Titanosaur & one of them as "Giganotosaurus" a Predator was more bigger than the largest known T. Rex & ait could take down the young, the weak, the sick & the old Titanosaurs & It could not take down a healthy adult & they're too risky & using their massive sizes.

    • travisbe916

      @Kirthalion or the local environment and food source changed in such a way that a different species of ant did better and drove them out.

    • PanzerZak

      Are you sure these hell ants weren't used as some kind of biological weapon in Myanmar? I wonder..

    • J Thomas
      J Thomas

      A New 98 Million Year Old Titanosaur was discovered in Neuquen, Northern Patagonia in Southern Argentina in January, 2021 & It was a huge Animal, the largest Creature that ever to walk the Earth in the Candeleros Formation.

  • FunOnTheBun

    All ants except for queens and males are sterile and take care of their sisters

  • tom novy
    tom novy

    Those ants really were from hell,wherent they?

  • Ben Dover
    Ben Dover

    The coolest part is that, we observe Great Apes, apart from Orangutans, are eusocial, just with a patriarchal structure instead of matriarchal like ants and mole rats.

  • Abdul Qahhar
    Abdul Qahhar

    Even ants live better than us humans

  • sumlinteronne

    I love ants by far favorite insects

  • TheTop HatNerd
    TheTop HatNerd

    *immediately gets walking with beasts vibes*

  • hettyscetty 97
    hettyscetty 97

    Did this video make anyone else itchy?

  • Ethan Hunter
    Ethan Hunter

    It occurs to me that the shape of the hell ant's jaw is not as well suited to teamwork as the jaws of modern ants. The hell ant's jaw seems ideal for one on one hunting or combat. Once the hell ant has grabbed an insect in its jaws, it has pretty much won. Also it seems that it's prey would have to match the size of its jaws pretty well. Too large, and it won't fit. A very common strategy among modern ants is to work in a team in which some grab the limbs of their opponent and pull them taught while another cuts though. Ants of various sizes can work together to take down large or small prey in this manner.

  • Ethan Hunter
    Ethan Hunter

    I wish to live in a eusocial society.

  • Vonn KilluCo
    Vonn KilluCo

    It's almost cute how she says wings, weengs.

  • Anna Rowe
    Anna Rowe

    Can you please make a video about when Elephants had 4 tusks?

  • Nicely Dunwell
    Nicely Dunwell

    I've got a couple of hell aunts that infest the house every year from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

  • Patrick Vroman
    Patrick Vroman

    7:39 "Ants and uncles"

  • Shadow Realm
    Shadow Realm

    Can we rename them to predator ants

  • MrBargill

    A what? geez that spelling................

  • Scniff Kenauser
    Scniff Kenauser

    the ants went corporate

  • James Aron
    James Aron

    Dinosaur ants

  • hostronic

    Would love to see more videos on prehistoric flora and how plants have evolved over time.

  • scott lee
    scott lee

    If I keep watching your videos, I might just know more than I did'nt when I was born! Thanks!

  • Chuckle Honeybear
    Chuckle Honeybear

    I'm sure glad i didn't live 99 million years ago

  • Barry Steven Young
    Barry Steven Young

    Why don't they call male ants 'uncles'?

  • Explity

    Cool communist ants!

  • iamacaterpillar

    what happened to steve..he was my favorite eonthologist...

  • Clint S.
    Clint S.

    We need a scientific “Ant Week.” Similar to shark week, but cooler.

  • rumakh_

    If only someone would rate them professionally...

  • Tom Storm
    Tom Storm

    Other animals and species in Earth history: Survived for hundreds of millions of years and extinct due to nature and natural disasters. Humans: Let's see how fast we can bring ourselves to extinction with our own hands. /palmface

  • sophy van
    sophy van

    i don't believe the story. all made up story. where are the proofs ?

  • sophy van
    sophy van

    ants are stupid that is why they cannot fly like bees.

  • Vijay Nair
    Vijay Nair

    I have a hell aunt. She constantly judges the way I live my life. She also rags on me about not being married yet. She also has a killer mandible, which she uses to bite people she doesn’t like.

  • skeletorrobo

    The new ants came on the meteor, taking over...

  • Rob Bleeker
    Rob Bleeker

    QUESTION.. To get babies, obvious you are going to need one female (The Queen) and one male, and usually the baby will inherit the traits of the parents. BUT, ants that infertile, will not produce offspring, now I doubt that ants developed Artificial Insemination. You are telling us that all ants in a colony are born for one particular role, so....DOES THIS MEAN that Ants have the ability to decide what type of ant they are going to raise, from its humble begins from a sperm (I guess that male ants have sperm)?

  • Whitney Rene Paige
    Whitney Rene Paige

    Another great video! Just one question... What happened to Steve?!

  • Stutz Stutzman
    Stutz Stutzman

    Let's bring back hell ants!!

  • KurtRu5selCrowe

    For the algorithm

  • D4RK

    I love this show but i always have to laugh whenever they show the host just awkwardly standing and moving their hands

  • Nick3xtreme Gaming
    Nick3xtreme Gaming

    well ants did evolve from wasps which are eusocial insects which usually form small colonies, this is probably where ants got their eusocial behavior from, their wasp ancestors are also why ant bodies look the way they do, why ant queens and drones have wings, and why lots of ants have stingers today. it also explains why ants have queens and reproduce the way they do as they probably inherited it from their wasp ancestors. and the smaller numbers of cretaceous ants can probably be explained by looking at modern ant species particularly the more primitive bull ants which are bigger then most ants living today but form smaller colonies, whilst they do cooperate as a colony its less then most species of ants today as bull ant workers can often be seen foraging alone. and probably they're not as common during the dinosaur age because around that time they had just recently evolved from wasps and were very primitive ants, living in small colonies and lacking the complexity and cooperation most modern ant colonies have today, they probably behaved more like bull ants just more primitive.

  • mariatuz zara
    mariatuz zara

    The ant on my laptop screen: *ayyo, that my cousin?*

  • Kieran Callahan
    Kieran Callahan

    I wanna see an episode about labybugs.

  • RM Space
    RM Space

    Phoenix empire be like:

  • Chimera-man man human
    Chimera-man man human

    The weird thing about this one is that since they’re insects we probably can’t say for sure they’re extinct, right? They could still be out there somewhere

  • Chadx M
    Chadx M

    ver ANTiqueted, I see

  • Calamity Jean
    Calamity Jean

    What happened to Steve?

  • Josh M
    Josh M

    the ant effect

  • Cormac Linehan
    Cormac Linehan

    There are a few species of ants today that hunt individually in co-op nests. They tend to be bigger, and not sterile, but only a strong few are selected as mothers.

  • Shadowjc32

    "But they're gone now" oh thank god

  • TyrannicalXeno

    Straight to hell buddy 8:17

  • Ants music
    Ants music


  • Yeetus Mann
    Yeetus Mann

    *Ants.* They’re organized. Industrious. And *hungry.* But in the undergrowth, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. *cue epic battle scene* In the end, only one colony will secure victory over the outworld, *And take it’s place amongst the great empires, of the Undergrowth.*

  • Get Real
    Get Real

    If we not learn to work together as a species and stop preying on each other we might become soon extinct as well like the hell ants except that we take a lot of species with us on our most destructive path of exploitation.

  • 易红天

    It made me think about the mammals that have also gone extinct which used a similar hunting method such as the saber toothed tiger, etc. and wooly mammoth from before the Quaternary extinction event.

  • Tripleat

    I like to think hell ants were possiblt more independent and other ants maybe benefitted from them helping take down prey or something like that. We've had lots of examples of animals and insects working together so I suppose it isnt impossible

  • hyena

    You know that documentary future is wild? Could you do a video on it

  • Harley King of narwhals 997
    Harley King of narwhals 997

    0:06 *jurassic park theme intensifies*

  • Timothy Ortiz
    Timothy Ortiz

    Well the little bastards are dead now. Now for fire ants.

  • Antonio Brown
    Antonio Brown

    This channel is a jewel to me. One of the best on UZload. Thanks for your hard work PBS 😊

  • Jet Black Storm
    Jet Black Storm

    1:26 🤭 watch your profanity

  • Andrew Cox
    Andrew Cox

    ARGGGHHHH, A GENE WHICH MAKES AN INDIVIDUAL HELP A RELATIVE SURVIVE AT THE INDIVIDUAL’S EXPENSE THRIVES BY CAUSING A COPY OF ITSELF TO GET INTO THE NEXT GENERATION VIA THAT RELATIVE. Haplodiploid genetics make it more likely that a queen’s children will have a copy of a given gene in a worker than her own children would, were she to become fertile and reproduce via sex with a male. Therefore simple Darwinian evolution at the gene level selects for genes which make workers be altruistic and work to promote the reproduction of the queen. Read The Selfish Gene (which is about altruism not selfishness) by Richard Dawkins, and Journey to the Ants by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson for more on this.

  • Cid B.
    Cid B.

    At first glance, I thought this was a 50's sci-fi movie:) Glad I watched anyway, very interesting.

  • John Mayer
    John Mayer

    Well they didn’t look very friendly!

  • purishankar tennety
    purishankar tennety

    This channel is really the ANTSwer for everything

  • dragonspight

    I miss Steve :(

  • RiSKeY RiSKeY
    RiSKeY RiSKeY

    love this video 😃

  • jerlee620

    “So..Where’d the Hell Ants go?” 🤔

  • Dolthra

    "Specialization may actually be bad in the long run!" say the scientists of one of the most adaptable species on earth.

  • Cornbreadfed kirkpatrick
    Cornbreadfed kirkpatrick

    Before those movies in da 90s, I watch some corny dino movies until Disneys Baby the lost legend the first-ever remote-controlled animatronic movie well so I was told I stand corrected if someone could mention some other movie I'm unaware of.

  • Cornbreadfed kirkpatrick
    Cornbreadfed kirkpatrick

    Too bad we can make synthetic ivory, coral, certain animal hides body parts,skins like the Patagonian and a few others making the real thing obsolete and undesirable

  • Cornbreadfed kirkpatrick
    Cornbreadfed kirkpatrick

    Interesting I wonder what else is out there that has yet that hasn't been discovered in the ancient world and how we can be discovered in the future.

  • Rico Suarez
    Rico Suarez

    Comrade Hell Ants

  • Sean Lutzke
    Sean Lutzke

    It makes a ton of sense that hell ants went extinct. Those jaws are totally impractical for taking apart large prey as a group.

  • Felixkeeg

    >Hell ants >Is extinct >Found specimen preserved in amber >The year is 2021 I have a very bad feeling about this

  • Julian's Thoughts
    Julian's Thoughts

    Sounds like ants live on communes

  • James Abernethy
    James Abernethy

    really love these PBS Eons videos. Short, informative and so relaxing to watch.. Great work by all involved.

  • M E
    M E

    Be cool if you could do one about the giant ant colony in... Spain, I believe? It stretches for 300 miles or something.

  • John Whitesell
    John Whitesell

    Gastornis chicks: *[Heavy Breathing]*

  • Peter Houle
    Peter Houle

    "Where'd the hell... ants go?"

  • Sky Dugan
    Sky Dugan

    Hunter x Hunter fans watching this video: *panicked sobbing*

  • der muck
    der muck

    1:12 ... fun fact: ants are closer related to their sisters than to their mother 🐜 °[ & for this reason we usualy seem to be super social compared to you... at least if you take a closer look at us. ]

  • Healthy

    Hell ants may be the ancestor of the modern Myrmecia :o

  • rakninja

    some serious omissions here. for one, no mention of just how few ant species have ever gone extinct. for two, there are plenty of "less social" ant species in modern times , the ones that resemble a "co-op" more than a "kingdom."

  • overstand evolution perpetuity universe
    overstand evolution perpetuity universe

    AC fam ✌

  • TheReaverOfDarkness

    may not be their ants and uncles... Where'd the hell ants go?

  • H@ppyC@mper

    Where can I buy tickets to this "Mating Flight"?

  • By Sal
    By Sal

    and hell nation attacked!!!

  • Governed Logic
    Governed Logic

    She seems to be doing an impression of another woman on youtube who talks about animal species. The problem is, she is a bad person to copy. Far to Nasal. Apparently Nasaly is the sound that people go to when they are trying to sound more high class or educated. It is a horrible side effect.

  • Mac11 Bussin
    Mac11 Bussin


  • Esa K.
    Esa K.


  • bad manager
    bad manager

    Hi Eoners and other Smarties Since I started watching documentaries with scientific background in English I wonder how it could happen, that greek expressions throughout and latin ones are misspronounced by the Anglo-Saxian scientia. Hardly any Greek would understand anything. Not even the letter Pi is spelled correctly.

  • Tom Larson
    Tom Larson

    8:17 So where the hell did the hell ants go? Did someone tell them to go to hell?

  • Stanislav Bushuev
    Stanislav Bushuev

    Cool video I wish the cool life forms did not go extinct so much

  • Jason Platco
    Jason Platco

    I think it's likely that a few factors caused their extenciton. Possibly over specialization played a role. Colony size? Pure speculation that they were any different than other ants on that. But it's also possible that the factors that caused other ants to proliferate were the same factors that made the hell ants go bust. Could be the mass extention event, climate change that spurred both opposing outcomes.

  • MisterNarrador

    Ants: We don't build societies. we build Empires!!!!

  • PotatoSaladFace

    Everyone: sTaY SaFe aNd I LoVe yOu Me: like what, from car crashes? ._.

  • PotatoSaladFace

    Me, a 'crazy' bug lady: *_GIVE ME YOUR ENTIRE STOCK OF HELL ANTS_*

  • Tre' Otto
    Tre' Otto

    the antswer

  • M. M
    M. M

    Will you make a video on fossilized jellyfish? Thanks!

  • Josh Lewis
    Josh Lewis

    Woah, for a second I thought I was about to be taught about ants from Drew Barrymore.

  • kloassie

    Glad to see proof insects can actually go extinct - gives new hope to the crusade against mosquitoes and cockroaches

  • Bun Bun
    Bun Bun

    repeat this phrase, "like a newt in a suit"

  • 8 Bitz
    8 Bitz

    can i have my dictionary back?