Gliding ants swoop back to their nest

The Smithsonian has a cool post on wingless ants that have learned how to glide through the forest canopy using their outstretched legs. If knocked from their treetop nest, Cephalotes atratus avoid falling to the ground by steering themselves, tail first, back toward the tree. Yes, not only can these ants glide, they do it backwards.

Full details over at the Smithsonian Science blog.

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"⢠Ants with hind legs, mid legs and gaster removed are unable to steer or glide effectively."

er, I guess not. They probably can't walk, defend against predators, attack prey, forage or eat terribly effectively, either. In fact they're probably too busy screaming, "AAARGHH, SOME UNETHICAL RESEARCHER HAS JUST CHOPPED OFF MY HIND LEGS, MID LEGS, AND GASTER, aaaraggghhh.."

"Some species are capable of righting themselves as they fall and rotating so their heads point toward the trunk of the tree from which they fell, but are not capable of horizontal movement. This suggests a transitional period in which these ants are evolving a gliding behavior."

yeah, because those successful ants are going to pass their genes on to their many offspring....

By Vince whirlwind (not verified) on 15 Jun 2011 #permalink

Vince -- while it's true these specific ants will not pass on their genes, their colony will. Evolution doesn't just work at an individual level; if that were true, hive species couldn't exist. Bees would never evolve, because a fitter worker bee doesn't reproduce and pass on those fitter genes.

Thing is, a *queen* whose offspring can glide will have more success than a queen whose offspring does not, because her colony will be more successful. Don't think of worker and soldier ants as individuals; think of them as the hands and feet and eyes and ears of the colony, while the queen is the colony's reproductive tract. It's not about the workers' survival. It's about the colony's survival.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 17 Jun 2011 #permalink


Probably not. They may not feel much pain, if any. I've read that if you bend a dragonfly so its tail end gets in reach of its mandibles, it'll start devouring itself. If it had much sensitivity to pain, I'd think it would stop pretty quickly. Or at least take evasive action to escape the 'predator', and in the process distract itself from eating itself.

arsa Onlar çok aÄrı hissediyorum olmayabilir.Ben onun kuyruk sonu kendi altçeneleri ulaÅamayacaÄı da alır böylece bir yusufçuk viraj, kendisini yiyor baÅlayacaÄız olduÄunu okudum.Bu aÄrı çok duyarlılık olsaydı, bunu çok hızlı bir Åekilde durdurmak düÅünüyorum ediyorum.