Desert ants travel long distances to find food, using celestial cues to orient themselves and find their way.
Ants on Stilts
Desert ants travel long distances to find food, using celestial cues to orient themselves and find their way. Scientists knew the ants must also have a method for determining exactly how far they have marched, but until now they were uncertain of the mechanism. A new experiment has revealed that the ants measure distance with some sort of internal pedometer, based on stride length. Researchers altered the legs of a group of ants, giving some "stilts," like the Cataglyphis ant shown above with red leg extensions. Other ants received "stumps," their legs shortened by amputation. The ants on stilts had a lengthened stride and marched past their goal, whereas the stump-legged ants stopped short of their goal, suggesting that stride length indeed serves as an ant pedometer. The research is detailed in the current issue of Science.