Shifting Sand Land waiting for its prey at the bottom of a pit, with only its mouthparts visible until it emerges for battle.
The inspiration for most of these is the larva of the antlion, which digs out a hole and waits for food to come tumbling down. (It's not an ant, by the way: it's so named because it preys on ants.)
Do not confuse with the mythical Myrmecoleon: as a result of a translation error, it's the offspring of a lion and an ant that's doomed to starve as one parent eats meat and the other eats plants.
See also Sand Worm and Pit Trap, which this can be considered a combination of.
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Anime and Manga
- Dororo (2019): In one episode, an antlion larva eats Hyakkimaru's leg.
- Now and Then, Here and There: One shows up in an episode as one of the many, many hazards of the Death World where the protagonist is stranded.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: While crossing the Deadly Desert, the characters encounter a giant antlion.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: The Rock Spirit had the card Sand Doodlebug, which was a giant antlion larva.
- Judge Dredd: One of the many hazards in the Cursed Earth are Giant Trapdoor Spiders. Dredd and a group of Judges run into these during a reconnaissance mission during the "Mutant Rights" arc.
- Wonder Woman (1987): Scavenger worms are giant creatures with lamprey mouths that hunt by burrowing in the sand at the bottom of pits and eating whatever falls within their grasp.
- Eight Legged Freaks: One subset of the Giant Spider horde includes a small group of trapdoor spiders, who snatch people into their burrows when the whole town is under attack. One guy manages to get past them by throwing a ladder on top of the trapdoor in front of him and walking his way across.
- Enemy Mine: One such creature appears and uses a barbed tongue-like appendage to ensnare its prey.
- Star Wars: As seen in Return of the Jedi and The Book of Boba Fett, the Sarlacc is a plant-like monster whose body is mostly buried underground, exposing only a beaklike mouth and a set of tentacles at the bottom of a steep pit.
- One of Alan Dean Foster's stories about Mountain Man Mad Amos Malone includes an encounter with a gigantic, presumably magical ant-lion.
- Evolution: The rat-mouths of New Pangaea, descendants of rodents, live in underground holes and catch their food by waiting for an unlucky animal to fall into their maw.
- Judgment On Janus, by Andre Norton, has Niall/Ayyar fall into a pit dug by a kalcrok (a large spider-like monster). The kalcrok skillfully fashioned the pit walls to be unclimbable, so after killing it he must crawl though its nest to find an exit.
- The Moomins: An antlion appears in The Moomins and the Great Flood, Finn Family Moomintroll, and the 90's anime series Tanoshii Mumin Ikka. In this case the antlion is a black lion-like creature that digs Pit Traps at a beach.
- Ultra Series
- Ultraman: Antlar is a Kaiju based on the stag beetle, often used antlion-style pits to ambush Ultraman and fight dirty. However, it also had a magnetizing beam as a Breath Weapon to pull enemies towards its massive mandibles.
- Ultraman Ace gives us Aribunta, a similar monster which is modelled after an army ant, which is similarly capable of tunneling and creating massive sand pits to swallow opponents, in addition to Acid Breath and fire-spewing claws.
- Blue Planet: The rare and currently-unclassified Howell's leech lives in tidal mud flats and metabolizes seawater into hydrogen and oxygen gas, which it secretes to form a large and expanding underground bubble. When something heavy enough passes overhead the bubble bursts, leaving the prey trapped in mud if not buried alive, and the leech eats it after it asphyxiates.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The giant antlion first appeared in the 1st Edition's Monster Manual II. It acted just like an oversized version of the real thing, digging a pit and waiting for victims to fall in. Once they did so it burst out and grabbed them with its huge mandibles, crushing them until they died.
- The same book introduces the Dust Digger, a Sarlaac-like creature that possessed similar ambush tactics, but modified with the additional ability to create mirages to lure prey.
- The long-term creature the ankheg (present in nearly every version) could be considered to be a subversion — it physically resembles an antlion nymph, even down to having venomous (or acidic) jaws — but does not create a cone or trap its prey, instead acting as a roving underground predator.
- Yellow dragons, a lesser-known evil dragon breed that doesn't associate with the classic five chromatic dragons, sometimes hunt like this, burying themselves up to their eyes and nostrils at the bottom of a conical pit, then sweeping their wings to collapse the sides so that passing prey tumbles into their jaws.
- Exalted: Steel eaters, beetle-like earth elementals that eat metal, hunt by digging hollow spaces just beneath the surface of the earth in warzones and other areas where conflict is common, hoping to ambush armed and armored soldiers whose gear they can consume.
- Pathfinder: Dust diggers, burrowing starfish-like creatures that lie just below the surface of the ground and rapidly deflate their bodies to create sinkholes and cause prey to fall down into their mouths.
- Rogue Trader: Sand tigers are alien predators that bury themselves in desert sand, loosening the sand with their claws to create an area of quicksand that passing creatures sink in. The tiger further draws in its prey by digging away sand from under it, eventually leaving only a pit with the creature's circular, fang-lined maw at the bottom.
- Warhammer: The Great Maw is a vast mouth in the ground, apparently sentient and capable of giving the ogres that worship it (by throwing food down its gullet) the ability to use Gut Magic.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!: Traptrix T'lion/Myrmeleo is based on the antlion, which sets traps to get its prey. It uses a little girl puppet to lure victims to its trap and devours them whole.
- ActRaiser has Dagoba, the boss of Kasandora Act 1.
- Arabian Magic has an invincible antlion beast in one stage of the desert, whose pit will drag you into it's jaws. You have to fight and defeat enemies in the same area, while avoiding the corners of the monster's pit or lose a life.
- The first boss of Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M., the Siberian Queen, is an insect monster based on the antlion, who opens a massive pit in the middle of the snow base trying to drag you in. It's entirely confined within the pit however, so you can simply keep a distance and repeatedly shoot at her until she sinks back into the pit.
- Astro Marine Corps has the great Lasaarc lurking in a pit at the end of Zone 2. Try to jump over it, and it will spit your bones out.
- Awesomenauts: The Sorona map has a giant worm hiding in the bottom center. Hit the button just one jump above and the worm pops out to annihilate anything underneath.
- Cave Story: Omega is a robot that waits for its victims (such as the player) buried in the sand to attack them by spewing numerous orbs before hiding again. After sufficient damage, it resorts to hopping around instead moving under the sand.
- Don't Starve Together has an antlion giant that appears during summer in the desert. Players have 3 options when it appears: appease it with items fished from the oasis, ignore it and deal with the periodic sinkhole/cave-in it causes, or fight it.
- Dyna Gear has a massive antlion beast as a boss in the desert stage, where it can only be damaged when it stick it's maw out of it's pit to gnaw on your player.
- Elden Ring: The Fallingstar Beasts have some similarities to antlions, most notably their enormous mandibles and usually being found at the bottom of a crater. It's also suggested that the Malformed Stars and finally Astel, Naturalborn of the Void, may be later stages of a Fallingstar's lifecycle, which would give them a metamorphosis similar to antlions: developing into a winged adult stage after a period of being groundbound.
- Final Fantasy:
- Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy IX feature antlions as bosses. In the former, it borders on Tragic Monster, as Edward explains it's tame right before it attacks him, and then almost breaks down crying after the group is forced to kill it. In Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, the party again encounters an antlion in the same vein as the first game.... and it's perfectly tame, just as Edward originally said. In IX, it's also fought as just a big mook in Random Encounters or as a mini-boss around desert areas.
- Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles has a giant antlion boss in its desert level, which is even named "Antlion". When you encounter it, it surprises you by surfacing from under the sand and attacking. Half its body remains underground, while it moves through the sand and attacks you.
- Golden Sun. In the Lamakan desert, one can use Reveal on circles of rocks to see if they contain life-restoring oases. Sometimes they are revealed to be traps where an antlion's pincers are waiting; if it is, the party is forced to enter battle (sometimes Isaac is seen running as he is dragged backwards while the antlion Says It With Hearts). The antlion monster itself is a Big Creepy Crawly the size of a car.
- Gradius: Gradius III's first boss is a giant antlion, though the SNES manual calls it the "Earwig Scorpion".
- Grounded has literal antlions as enemies, what with the player being shrunk to the size of an ant and trapped in an enormous backyard. The real life versions are every bit as hostile and terrifying here as the creatures they've inspired, building pit traps in the desert-esque sandbox and ambushing players like they would with actual ants.
- Half-Life 2: The Antlions, which pop out of the sand and attack you whenever you spend more than a fraction of a second on it.
- Kid Dracula: Giant antlion monsters appear in the desert level.
- Kirby: Snipper is an enemy with comically oversized antlion pincers that hides at the bottom of sandy pits.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and A Link Between Worlds have antlion-like enemies called Devalants in Hyrule's desert area and the Sand Palace Dungeon. They bury themselves and create sand vortexes that they're visibly at the center of, and they try and get you to fall into them. Some also shoot fireballs. You defeat them in the former game by attacking their heads while exposed and in the latter by using the Sand Rod to get them above ground and then attacking them.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker features Molgera, the boss of the Wind Temple, which combines the jaws and tactics of an antlion with the body of a Sand Worm, spending most of the fight at the bottom of a sand pit waiting for Link to venture too close. Link needs to use the Hookshot from a safe distance to grab its sensitive tongue, while avoiding the smaller worms that the boss periodically spawns. Occasionally, Molgera will also erupt from the sand and fly around before dive-bombing Link, a strategy not often heard of for an Antlion Monster or a Sand Worm.
- Mega Man Zero: The Sand Jaws enemies lie on the sand and will bite Zero for slow but continuous pain if he touches them. The Quicksand Mixer enemy in the same level sucks Zero into a quicksand pit and deals strong collision damage if he touches them.
- The first boss of Melfand Stories is a giant antlion-centipede hybrid monster who opens a sand pit trying to suck you in. It periodically sticks its head out of the pit to chew you up, but you can attack it while it's exposed.
- Monster Girl Quest has the Antlion Girl, for a Cute Monster Girl variant. Luka gets trapped in her pit and has to defeat her before he reaches the bottom.
- Monster Rancher: If you send a monster out on errantry in the desert-themed area, the third hazard it needs to get past is a "Giant Antlion". If it succeeds, it manages to run up the sides of the sand pit, if it fails, it falls into it.
- Mother 3: Several of these appear in the desert area, and one has a save frog caught in his whirlpool of sand. Defeating the antlion frees the frog, allowing him to save your game.
- Octopath Traveler II: The Sand Lion serves as the boss in Castti's Sai Route Chapter 2, and easily qualifies as a fantasy antlion.
- Phantasy Star I: Antlion nests block your path on planet Motavia, until you get the Landrover to travel over them. (But the antlion's battle sprite looks like a spider, being a palette swap of Tarantul.)
- Pikmin 3: The Sandbelching Meerslug is a big-lipped worm fought in a patch of sand, and its main attack involves creating a large funnel in the sand and using it to send your Pikmin sliding into its waiting mouth.
- Pokémon: Trapinch is an antlion-based Pokèmon that waits in its hole to capture prey, and like its Real Life counterpart, evolves into a dragonfly-like creature. Its Arena Trap ability prevents grounded enemies* from escaping.
- Ribbit King: The Lavatron planet has mouths sticking out of the ground, which the frogs can get stuck in as a hazard. Danny of Game Grumps even noted their similarity to Sarlaccs when the Grumps played it.
- Secret of Mana has the Spider Legs in the obligatory desert region. They're usually found in sand pits, and will target whoever disturbs them with a painful Earth Slide spell before hiding in the ground again. They can nuked with magic before they even show themselves, though.
- SimAnt: Antlions are an obstacle that force you to be more careful with the auto-pathing, since your ant has no real sense of self-preservation.
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2: The first boss for the Game Gear and Sega Master System is a Robotic Antlion. To defeat it, Sonic must dodge the cannonballs that Robotnik throws at him so that they will hit the Robotic Antlion. Eventually, Robotnik flies down at Sonic and Sonic must dodge him as well so Robotnik will inadvertently deliver the final hit. This boss is harder in the Game Gear version due to the reduced amount of space on the screen.
- Spin Master for the Neo Geo has a giant antlion lurking in a desert quicksand pit.
- Strider (Arcade): The PC Engine version has a giant antlion as the mid-boss of the Shifting Sand Land stage.
- Super Mario Bros.:
- Super Mario RPG: The desert region known as Land's End has whirlpools of sand which ant-like monsters pop out of if you get too close.
- Wario World: Sandworm, the second boss, waits at the bottom of a quicksand cone that drags you to him. He later reappears as a Degraded Boss in Pecan Sands.
- Yoshi's Island DS: The boss of the third world, Priscilla the Peckish, lives in a massive sand pit and eats the Shy Guys that fall into it, spits out Needlenoses at you and, if you try to jump over her, will leap up out of the sand pit and try to eat you, chewing on you for a few seconds and then spitting you out.
- Mario Kart: Double Dash!! has Pit Plant in the center of the quicksand pit in Dry Dry Desert, which will eat a racer if they fall in the pit. It's Adapted Out in 8 and 8 Deluxe and racers who fall into the pit immidiately get rescued by Lakitu instead.
- Terraria: Antlions make up several pre-Hardmode desert enemies — not only the larvae that burrow in the sand, but also the winged adult.
- Ultima Online features a giant "ant lion" as a monster in the dungeon Shame, although it looks nothing like the insect larvae that inspired it.
- Valis: Valis III has giant antlions in the TurboGrafx-16-exclusive Shifting Sand Land stage. Sitting at the bottom of pits makes them difficult to attack.
- Trope Maker: The antlion larva, of course. It wedges itself backward into sand, and then uses its head and mandibles to dig. Slowly it creates a funnel-shaped trap, with it at the center. And then it digs into the sand and waits. When something (usually an ant) falls into the funnel, the ant tries to get out, but the sand being loose, it begins to slide, preventing the ant from climbing it. So the ant lion tosses sand at it in order to increase the sandslide, and to bring it down to it. That's when the antlion grabs it with its large, serrated mandibles, injects poison into it that liquefies the insides (it can't actually eat in the normal sense), and then sucks the ant dry. So yeah, it deserves the title of "monster". Though it is utterly harmless to humans and it is actually quite gentle when not inside a pit, because by the time it's out, it's already a damselfly-like adult insect and looks like this◊, not like this◊.
- The larvae of vermileonid flies (aptly named wormlions) while sporting a much more mundane appearance, employ the same hunting strategy as antlions, right down to flinging sand at trapped prey.
- The Australian Funnel Web Spider does this, with the added refinement that its funnel-shaped pit is lined by sticky web.
- Trapdoor Spiders employ a similar tactic to antlions. They make a burrow with a hinged lid and line the entrance with its own silk as a tripline then hide inside to ambush any insect that walks onto the silk.
- Tiger beetle larva hunts in the same manner as trapdoor spider, only it uses its own front end as a lid and relies on sight rather than triplines.
- Larvae of some beetles in Paussinae subfamily plug the entrance to their burrows with "terminal disc" at the end of their abdomens and catch any insect that tries to walk over it. The surface of this disc also produces secretions which attract ants and termites.