Antlion larvae are fluid-feeding ambush predators that feed on arthropods trapped in their funnel-shaped pits built in sandy habitats; however, details are lacking about their feeding mechanism. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the antlion, Myrmeleon crudelis, has adaptations that facilitate fluid feeding in sandy habitats. We measured contact angles of water droplets and used the capillary-rise technique to assess mouthpart wettability. A structural organization was discovered that provides a hydrophobic–hydrophilic wetting dichotomy that simultaneously supports self-cleaning and fluid uptake and is enabled by antiparallel movements of the maxillae. The mouthparts also are augmented by their mechanical properties, including maxillae and mandible tips that might be heavily sclerotized, as determined by confocal microscopy, which likely facilitates piercing prey. Our findings provide insight into how antlion larvae have overcome the challenges of fluid feeding in sandy habitats, which probably contributed to their success and widespread distribution.

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