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SCIENCE: Ants Have Odometers!!

edited February 2007 in Events & Planning
Ant Pedometer Discovered 06/29/2006

Ants have dumbfounded scientists again. It appears they count their steps when they walk, and keep track how far they have gone. Reporting in Science,1 a trio of German and Swiss scientists tested desert ants by making some walk on specially-designed stilts and others walk on stumps of cut-off legs. The first overshot their target, and the second group undershot it by the amount proportional to the change in leg length.

Another amazing fact is that the ants can use their mental pedometers to reckon how far they are from home, then take a direct route back. That would seem to require mathematical skill beyond just counting steps. Indeed it does; not only do the ants have a sophisticated onboard navigation system, but also celestial navigation equipment. The team explained,

Foraging Saharan desert ants, Cataglyphis fortis, use a mode of dead reckoning known as path integration to monitor their current position relative to the nest and to find their way home. This enables them to return on a direct route, rather than retracing the tortuous outbound journey performed when searching for food items in their flat desert habitat, which is often completely devoid of landmarks. The path integrator requires two kinds of input information: about directions steered, as obtained via the ant’s celestial compass, and about distance traveled, as gauged by the ant’s odometer.

See also Live Science, National Geographic and New Scientist. The team also found that the ants could learn to adapt to their new circumstances. Regarding the surgical procedures used in the experiment, the scientists were quick to explain that ants don’t feel pain at having their legs amputated.

from an odd web site:

http://creationsafaris.com/crev200606.htm

Comments

  • Posted By: concreteboxRegarding the surgical procedures used in the experiment, the scientists were quick to explain that ants don’t feel pain at having their legs amputated.
    How the hell do the scientists know? Maybe I should do this to the "scientists" and see how they feel?
  • Posted By: karenRegarding the surgical procedures used in the experiment, the scientists were quick to explain that ants don’t feel pain at having their legs amputated.
    Ha ha, "We're happy to report that they are incredible beings capable of wonderful calculations and complex societal hierarchies - however, they don't feel pain. And they have no souls. And, oh look, I just stepped on a bunch of them... my bad."
  • edited February 2007
    Ants really don't have souls btw.
  • Secret: neither do we.
  • edited February 2007
    Speak for yourself... I've got soul AND I'm superbad.
  • I wonder what fantastic scientific applications are going to come from this knowledge?
    The anticipation is killing me........
  • Ants really are amazing, although the best thing I know about them is they can't grow any bigger than they are already, so no terrifying irradiated muto-ants possible.
  • image

    One of the ants on stilts, what you might call a tall drink o' water.
    I think it should be dressed in an Uncle Sam outfit for effect.
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