Check this out: ant innards

Oecophylla weaver ants are exceptionally cooperative subjects for photography, allowing for plenty of experimentation with lighting while the ants preen and pose. While developing the photographs from South Africa I discovered that strong backlighting allows a crystal-clear view of the tracheal system:

Oecophylla longinoda, St. Lucia, KZN, South Africa

The tracheae are visible as dark canals running through the body. These connect to the outside air in a series of circular spiracles and are essentially the lungs of the insect, channeling oxygen to the respiring cells and carrying away carbon dioxide. I never though I’d photograph them in a living insect.

photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon 20D

ISO 100, f/11, 1/250 sec

backlight with handheld strobe, 60% crop in PS.


  1. #1 Alehkhs
    July 21, 2008

    Wow… this photo is astounding. The effect of the backlighting really adds an awe-inspiring effect to this ant.

  2. #2 goodbear
    July 21, 2008

    one of the most amazing shots i’ve seen!

  3. #3 Sifolinia
    July 21, 2008

    Mmm. Much tastier than smaragdina – full of lemony-goodness!

    I ate one of these (longinoda) in the Gambia, with our Gambian guide looking on in disbelief. I’m sure he still tells the tale of the crazy white guy who came to eat the ants!

    Incredible shot BTW.

  4. #4 Aydin
    July 21, 2008

    Nice shot. Backlighting is indeed very useful for revealing otherwise hidden details. Here is my picture of the lung of a snail, likewise revealed with backlighting.

  5. #5 Jim Lemire
    July 22, 2008

    I agree – an excellent shot, Alex. Perfect use of backlighting.

  6. #6 JP
    July 23, 2008

    That’s just beautiful.

    Curious… Do weaver ants have a thinner cuticle than other ants?

  7. #7 Marvin
    August 1, 2008

    Amazing shot.

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