Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Falling canopy ants glide home

10.02.2005


Steve Yanoviak tosses ants from very high places: tropical forest canopy trees. In the 10 February, 2005 issue of the journal, Nature, Yanoviak, ant biologist, Mike Kaspari, and biomechanics expert, Robert Dudley, publish an amazing observation: canopy ant workers (Cephalotes atratus L) jettisoned from branches 30 m above the ground, glide backwards to the trunk of the same tree with incredible accuracy. This is the first published account of directed gliding in wingless insects.

Eighty-five percent of falling C. atratus workers glide back to their home tree. Marked ants often came right back to the branch where they started within ten minutes of falling or being dropped off! "I first noticed directed descent behavior on BCI [the Smithsonian’s Barro Colorado Island field station in Panama] in 1998 while working on a canopy ant project with Mike Kaspari. Some spiny C. atratus workers got stuck in my hand while I was sitting in a tree crown. When I brushed them off, they appeared to glide rather than fall haphazardly," Yanoviak recalls.

"Early on, when Steve was dropping ants from the radio tower on BCI I got really excited because I could see their very clear ’J’ trajectory." explains Kaspari, zoology professor at the University of Oklahoma and Research Associate at the Smithsonian. Kaspari introduced Steve to Robert Dudley, physiologist at the University of California, Berkeley and also a Smithsonian Research Associate.



Yanoviak’s caught the ants’ initial vertical drop, a quick swivel to orient the hind legs in the direction of the "trunk" and a steep, directed glide and landing on the vertical surface on video he recorded in Peru. Dudley’s high-speed video enabled the authors to quantify the velocity and angle of the glide trajectory as Yanoviak dropped ants from the balcony of the lab on Barro Colorado against a backdrop of white bedsheet.

Additional experiments at Yanoviak’s field sites in Costa Rica and near Iquitos, in Peru, where he currently works collecting mosquitos for the University of Texas Medical Branch and the University of Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, showed that the ants visually orient toward tree trunks. In addition, small workers don’t fall as far as their larger counterparts before making contact with the tree. Yanoviak: "We still don’t understand exactly what mechanisms the ants use to change direction and to maintain a steady glide path through the air."

Yanoviak and Kaspari also asked whether all canopy ants glide. "I was the guy that stayed on the ground," Kaspari recounts, "while Steve dropped Paraponera [bullet ants that pack a nasty sting] down at me." Canopy ants in two groups: the Cephalotini and the Pseudomyrmecinae glide; arboreal Ponerines and Dolichoderines did not. "The tropical forest canopy, home of half of the rainforest’s animal biodiversity, is a risky place. Canopy creatures live on the edge of a very long fall. For an ant, a 30 m fall to the forest floor is akin to me falling 3.5 miles. An ant falling to the forest floor enters a dark world of mold and decomposition, of predators and scavengers, where the return trip is through a convoluted jungle of dead, accumulated leaves. Gliding is definitely the way to go, and we won’t be surprised if we find more examples of this behavior among wingless canopy insects," Kaspari concludes.

Mike Kaspari | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.si.edu
http://www.ou.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Topologische Quantenchemie
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

nachricht Topological Quantum Chemistry
21.07.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemische Physik fester Stoffe

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system

21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Vortex photons from electrons in circular motion

21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>