Ants do not always take the shortest route when they are in a hurry. Their navigational system occasionally makes them take detours to speed up their journey.
Termites are the African Matabele ants' (Megaponera analis) favourite dish. Proceeding in long files of 200 to 600, they raid termites at their foraging sites and haul the prey back to their nest where they are ultimately eaten.
Matabele ants on a raid: They take detours through open terrain to speed up their journey.
(Photo: Erik Frank)
Before starting their raids, the ants send out scouts to look for the termites' foraging sites. Once they have spotted them, the scout ants return to the nest to mobilize their comrades. On their way back to the nest, the scouts show astonishing navigational abilities: They take the quickest route rather than the shortest.
Travelling faster in open country
If the direct way back passes through an area densely grown with grass, for example, the scouts prefer taking detours through open terrain which enables them to double their pace – and this is worth it: They travel much faster although they are not taking the shortest route. This reduces their time back to the nest by 35 percent on average as Erik T. Frank, Philipp Hönle, and Karl Eduard Linsenmair from Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany, discovered. The biologists' results have been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
Individual ants make decisions
"Other ant species are known to rely on various navigational aids to determine the shortest way back to the nest from a foraging site," Erik Franks says. The navigational skills of the Matabele ants seem to be even more complex, a finding the researchers want to explore in greater detail now.
Moreover, the JMU scientists were surprised that the decision which way to take is made by individual ants and not collectively. "We have thus provided the first proof of time optimized path integration by individuals in the ant kingdom," says Frank who is currently conducting postdoc research at the University of Lausanne.
Time optimized path-choice in the termite hunting ant Megaponera analis. Erik T. Frank, Philipp O. Hönle, K. Eduard Linsenmair. Journal of Experimental Biology 2018, 10 May. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.174854
Dr. Erik T. Frank, University of Lausanne, Department of Ecology and Evolution, T +41 21 692 4176, firstname.lastname@example.org
http://jeb.biologists.org/content/early/2018/05/09/jeb.174854 Link to the paper
Robert Emmerich | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Machine learning microscope adapts lighting to improve diagnosis
20.11.2019 | Duke University
The neocortex is critical for learning and memory
20.11.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Hirnforschung
Conventional light microscopes cannot distinguish structures when they are separated by a distance smaller than, roughly, the wavelength of light. Superresolution microscopy, developed since the 1980s, lifts this limitation, using fluorescent moieties. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research have now discovered that graphene nano-molecules can be used to improve this microscopy technique. These graphene nano-molecules offer a number of substantial advantages over the materials previously used, making superresolution microscopy even more versatile.
Microscopy is an important investigation method, in physics, biology, medicine, and many other sciences. However, it has one disadvantage: its resolution is...
Nanooptical traps are a promising building block for quantum technologies. Austrian and German scientists have now removed an important obstacle to their practical use. They were able to show that a special form of mechanical vibration heats trapped particles in a very short time and knocks them out of the trap.
By controlling individual atoms, quantum properties can be investigated and made usable for technological applications. For about ten years, physicists have...
An international team of scientists, including three researchers from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), has shed new light on one of the central mysteries of solar physics: how energy from the Sun is transferred to the star's upper atmosphere, heating it to 1 million degrees Fahrenheit and higher in some regions, temperatures that are vastly hotter than the Sun's surface.
With new images from NJIT's Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), the researchers have revealed in groundbreaking, granular detail what appears to be a likely...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM in Dresden has succeeded in using Selective Electron Beam Melting (SEBM) to...
Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are valuable for a wide variety of applications. Made of graphene sheets rolled into tubes 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, CNTs have an exceptional strength-to-mass ratio and excellent thermal and electrical properties. These features make them ideal for a range of applications, including supercapacitors, interconnects, adhesives, particle trapping and structural color.
New research reveals even more potential for CNTs: as a coating, they can both repel and hold water in place, a useful property for applications like printing,...
15.11.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
05.11.2019 | Event News
20.11.2019 | Life Sciences
20.11.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
20.11.2019 | Health and Medicine