Geek Trivia

Researchers Determined How Ants Navigate By Outfitting Them With?

Radioactive Paint
What Common Office Supply Staple Is Capable Of Generating X-Ray Radiation?

Answer: Stilts

Ants have an uncannily precise ability to navigate back to their nests without wasting valuable energy overshooting their destination or wandering about haphazardly. For years, scientists wondered exactly how they could return home with such accuracy. While it was understood that ants utilized techniques like using the sun or other visual markers for navigation, what wasn’t understood was how using such wide area cues helped them to head straight home.

To determine if the ants were using their own bodies and cadence as a measuring tool, scientists lured ants away from a nest with food and then split the foragers into three groups. One group was left alone, one had tiny pig bristles glued onto their legs (to create tiny ant stilts), and one group had their legs trimmed shorter. The control group went straight home without a single problem, the group with the longer “stilt” legs walked more 50 percent too far due to their now lengthier stride, and the group with the shortened legs didn’t walk far enough by nearly 50 percent to get home.

The take away from the experiment is that ants have built in pedometers that help them pace off exact distances and return with uncanny precision to their nests.

Image courtesy of Matthias Wittlinger.