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Archive for July, 2006

How individually foraging ants reach the nest in a barren featureless desert, has been a subject explored for over a 100 years. Though the ant’s ability to orient using polarised light was discovered, the mechanism behind estimating distances eluded researchers. Several hypothesis have been put forward to explain how ants might measure distances, step counting being one of them. By forcing ants to walk on stilts and shortened legs Wittlinger et al found that ants use a form of a step-integrator to reach the nest. Ants that arrived to a food source by travelling a distance ‘x’ with normal legs were operated (lengthened or shortened) and left to return to their nest. Ants with long legs had long strides and measured a distance greater than ‘x‘, while ants with shortened legs had short strides and measured a distance lesser than ‘x’.

From: Wittlinger, M. Wehner R. and Wolf, H. (2006). The ant odometer: stepping on stilts and stumps. Science 312, 1965-1967.

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