An ant with jaws like a gin trap is officially the fasteststriking predator in the animal kingdom.

The trap-jaw ant Odontomachus bauri, from central and south America, snaps its fearsome mandibles shut in a mere 0.13 milliseconds - 2,300 times faster than the blink of an eye, scientists have found.

Travelling at 35 to 64 metres per second, or 78 to 145mph, each jaw generates a force 300 times greater than the insect's own body weight.

Previously experts thought no animal alive could move more quickly than the mantis shrimp, which delivers a powerful kick.

The amazing abilities of the trap-jaw ant were discovered by scientists using a high-speed video camera filming at 50,000 frames per second.

Not only do the jaws rapidly despatch prey but they also come in handy for escaping from predators.

The ant uses the spring mechanism of its mandibles to jump away from trouble.

Snapped onto the ground, they act like an ejector seat, launching the tiny creature three inches into the air.

Alternatively the ant may employ what scientists have called a "bouncer defence" when faced with a large intruder. At the same time as inflicting a vicious and perhaps crippling bite, the insect catapults itself backwards a distance of up to 15-and-a-half inches.

The ant's gymnastic displays are equivalent to a five foot six inch human jumping to a height of 44 feet and a horizontal distance of 132 feet.