Scientists: Ants have internal pedometer

Jul 04, 2006

German researchers have discovered that desert ants appear to have an internal pedometer that guides them back to their nests.

Desert ants live in an environment where there are few landmarks and the scent trails that work for other species of ants are not available because the baking heat of the sun destroys them.

Harold Wolf and other scientists at the University of Ulm artificially lengthened the legs of ants by attaching stilts or shortened them by removing a millimeter after training them to walk 10 meters from their nest to a feeder, Science reported. They found that the long-legged ants traveled 10.55 meters while the shorter-legged ones traveled 10.25 meters.

This suggests that ants have an internal mechanism that counts steps and helps them to navigate.

"These results support the hypothesis that desert ants use a pedometer for distance measurement, or a step integrator (loosely speaking, a step counter, although the ants most probably do not literally count)," the researchers said in their report in Science.

The team also found that the ants appear able to adjust to their new stride lengths because they traveled the correct distance on later trips.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The great salmon run algorithm

Jun 24, 2014

Solving complex problems is rarely a straightforward process, there are often many variables and countless plausible solutions each one of which has its pros and cons. Mechanical engineers at the Babol University of Technology ...

Ants in space

Feb 06, 2014

When NC State postdoc Clint Penick collected a group of pavement ants in a small mountain community in Western North Carolina last summer, he never dreamed they'd travel farther than his biology lab in Raleigh. ...

New science bound for station on Orbital's Cygnus

Jan 06, 2014

Delivering ants to space, sloshy fluids for robotic satellites, a study on antibiotic drug resistance and other small satellites to the International Space Station can be a tough job, and now Orbital Sciences ...

Recommended for you

Dwindling wind may tip predator-prey balance

21 hours ago

Bent and tossed by the wind, a field of soybean plants presents a challenge for an Asian lady beetle on the hunt for aphids. But what if the air—and the soybeans—were still?

Environmental pollutants make worms susceptible to cold

Sep 19, 2014

Some pollutants are more harmful in a cold climate than in a hot, because they affect the temperature sensitivity of certain organisms. Now researchers from Danish universities have demonstrated how this ...

Research helps steer mites from bees

Sep 19, 2014

A Simon Fraser University chemistry professor has found a way to sway mites from their damaging effects on bees that care and feed the all-important queen bee.

User comments : 0