Desert ant runs so fast it covers 100 times its body length per second


Life is a dash for the Saharan silver ant

Harald Wolf

The world’s quickest ant can run at nearly a metre per second, masking greater than 100 times its personal body length in that point.

The Saharan silver ant (Cataglyphis bombycina) has one of the excessive life of any insect. It lives within the Sahara desert, the place the bottom commonly reaches temperatures of 60°C. Most animals discover shelter on the hottest times of day, however that is when Saharan silver ants enterprise outdoors. In a livid burst of exercise which may be as quick as 10 minutes, they scavenge for bugs and different small animals which have fallen sufferer to the warmth.

It has been clear for the reason that 1980s that they run very fast, says Sarah Pfeffer at Ulm University in Germany. Desert ant researcher Rüdiger Wehner reported in 1983 that they may attain 1 metre per second, however this determine has been doubted ever since. “They had no high-speed camera,” says Pfeffer.


Pfeffer and her colleagues have now measured how fast Saharan silver ants run utilizing high-speed video. It seems they will attain 85.5 centimetres per second, which is fairly near Wehner’s estimate.

Quicksilver ants

Close examination of the video revealed a number of hints about how the ants handle this.

First, their legs are unusually quick for desert ants – which usually have lengthy legs to maintain their our bodies away from the recent floor. The quick legs enable the Saharan silver ants to take over 40 steps per second.

Second, their legs transfer in an uncommon approach. Like most bugs, the ants transfer three of their six legs at a time. However, most bugs don’t transfer all three exactly concurrently. “It’s a very jerky movement if you do that,” says Pfeffer. The Saharan silver ants break this rule, with the legs nearly synchronous. “We think this might help them with the sandy substrate,” says Pfeffer, maybe making certain that their toes don’t sink into the sand and gradual them.

Other animals do go sooner, relying how the velocity is measured. In absolute phrases, cheetahs are sooner, working at over 30 metres per second. Meanwhile, a tiny Californian mite known as Paratarsotomus macropalpis can cowl over 300 body lengths per second.

However, the Saharan silver ants produce other exceptional talents. In specific they’re extraordinarily heat-tolerant, thanks partially to particular silvery hairs that shield them.

Journal reference: Journal of Experimental Biology, DOI: 10.1242/jeb.198705

Read extra: Extreme survival: Creatures that may take the warmth

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