Weightlifting ants

Friday, February 19th, 2010 | Ants, Behavior, Education, Science | 3 Comments
Oecophylla smaragdina

"Oecophylla smaragdina can carry more than 100 times its own body weight while upside down on a smooth surface, thanks to its sticky feet." Image: Thomas Endlein, University of Cambridge via NewScientist

NewScientist posted photographs from the competition held by the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to showcase images of their latest research. In a single iconic image, the first one shows the weight that an ant is capable of carrying and how strong the suction devices in her feet are.

I have blogged about these adhesive devices in the ant’s feets before (called arolia in leet speak, singular arolium), and the very first image I used back then happens to be from the same ant species in the image above.

Foot of a Oecophylla smaragdina worker. Pretarsal claws and manubrium in red; arolium in yellow; tarsi in green (Scanning Electron Micrograph, Roberto Keller/AMNH)

(h/t to P. Beldade)


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Three legs (at any given time) are better than any other number

Friday, January 22nd, 2010 | Ants, Behavior | Comments Off on Three legs (at any given time) are better than any other number

Blogging has been at the bottom of my list of priorities as I adjust to my new research institution this month. Add a week away visiting colleagues in Paris [yeah, I’m adding this just for bragging purposes] and you will understand the lack of posts.

In the past couple of days I have been doing some background literature research on the topic of insect walking. What I did not know is how big this field is compared to other topics in entomology. The reason behind this popularity is, unsurprisingly, the fact that the results of such research have a direct technological application: robotics. In particular six legged robots or hexabots (they should be called something like hexapodbots, but I guess the shorter name is cooler).

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Parachuting to the ground

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 | Ants, Art, Behavior | Comments Off on Parachuting to the ground

It is a wonderful photograph, but what really caught my attention is the author’s description of it on the published caption.

Moldovan photographer, Bolucevschi Vitali, has won the title of CIWEM’s Environmental Photographer of the Year 2009. His picture, Talking About Stars, also won the Natural World category. Only 24 years old, the amateur photographer described how he was able to take his winning image: “On a sunny day I took a camera and set out to photograph something of the life of ants. At first I was no good as the ants moved very quickly and I was easily distracted. But gradually I was drawn to a group which was climbing up a nearby dandelion. They would each pull out one seed and then parachute to the ground”

They are Formica ants or “wood ants”. Can’t tell which species from here.

via CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year 2009 competition winners – Telegraph.

Update September 16th, 2009: A friend of mine ask me if the ants were really parachuting and if I had heard of this behavior before. The answer was that I had never heard of this before, but my guess is that the ant just pulls the seed out forcefully and falls to the ground, seed in mouth, as it looses her balance. A beautiful accident.

Monomorium ants in Andalusia

Friday, June 12th, 2009 | Ants, Behavior, Morphology | 3 Comments
The Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

I recently traveled to Andalusia, in the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula, to meet fellow myrmecologists Christian Peeters, from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, and Alberto Tinaut, from Universidad de Granada. The reason for my trip was that I am fortunately enough to have been invited to collaborate in one of their ongoing projects studying the native ant species Monomorium algiricum. We set out to collect some colonies of this species as well as some others in the genus.

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And as we discussed last semester, the Army Ants will leave nothing but your bones.
- Tom Waits