Scientists find skydiving secret of wingless ants
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Thursday 10 February 2005
Steve Yanoviak, Robert Dudley and Mike Kaspari of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC discovered the gliding finesse of the ant when they were conducting field work in Panama.
In a study published in the journal Nature, the scientists filmed the falling ants as they swivelled their hind legs in the direction of the tree trunk before beginning a steep, directed dive. In tests when the scientists marked a number of ants with paint before dropping them from the canopy, the scientists found about 85 per cent of them made it back to the same tree - sometimes within 10 minutes of falling.
The biologists believe the ants' behaviour is an evolutionary adaptation to living high up in the canopy where they feed and breed. When they glide, the ants appear to look for the tree they fell out of, said Dr Yanoviak. "We still don't understand what mechanisms the ants use to change direction and to maintain a steady glide path," he said.
"For an ant, a 30-metre fall to the forest floor is akin to me falling three-and-a-half miles. An ant falling to the forest floor enters a dark world of mould and decomposition, of predators and scavengers, where the return trip is through a convoluted jungle of dead, accumulated leaves.
"Gliding is definitely the way to go, and we won't be surprised if we find more examples of this behaviour among wingless canopy insects," Dr Kaspari said.
- 1 Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
- 2 The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 3 Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
- 4 Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star, dies aged 45
- 5 Businessman charged £75 for three small bottles of water in London hotel
Danish TV reporter is all business up top, all party down below
Israel-Gaza conflict: President Obama presses Netanyahu to call ‘immediate and unconditional’ Gaza ceasefire
Ross Burden dead: MasterChef and Ready Steady Cook star, dies aged 45
Zayn Malik on Israel-Gaza: One Direction singer bombarded with Twitter death threats after posting #FreePalestine
MH17 crash: Black boxes show plane suffered 'massive explosive decompression' following shrapnel hit
The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...
£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...
Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...
£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...