Why Ants Never Lose Their Way
Ants are industrious little insects that always seem to know where they are heading - Now, a team of curious researchers from The Technical University of Munich and Brazilian Center for Physics Research believe they may have the answer - It's all to do with their in-built GPS systems.
The scientists headed by researcher Jandira Ferreira de Oliveira studied the behavior of termite ants using sophisticated microscopes and what they discovered, was amazing. Just like human-built GPS systems, these tiny creatures have magnets built into their antennas, which help them navigate. However, while the human system relies on huge expensive satellites, ants get their magnetic navigation powers from the minerals in the soil and the earth's magnetic field.
The researchers believe that as the insects are walking around, tiny mineral particles like iron oxide from the soil get stuck to their antennas. This enables the ants to pick up the extremely weak signals from the Earth's magnetic field (1/20,000 that of a refrigerator magnet), and turn the antenna into a 'biological compass needle'. However, not all ants navigate in this manner - Some, like the desert ants have developed special eyes and use the movement of the Sun, as their GPS guide.
These findings just add to array of other amazing things that scientists have found about these industrious little creatures. They not only have the largest brain when compared to other insects their size, but also, one with a processing power that equals the computer that controlled the first NASA moon mission. If that is not enough, it was recently discovered that ants communicated with each other by talking - but not in the usual squeaky animal way. Instead, they stroke the ridges of their abdomen to convey messages to each other. We wonder what else we will find about these tiny but amazing little insects.
sources: discovery.com, dailmail.co.uk
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