This short article was originally featured on the Conversation.
When I first started my jobas a biologistat the University of South Florida, I drove my Jeep to a grassy field, dug up a mound of fire ants and shoveled it right into a 5-gallon bucket. Immediately, a large number of ants swarmed out from the soil or more the walls of the bucket headed for freedom. Luckily I had a lid.
Just how do ants make climbing walls, ceilings along with other surfaces look very easy?Ive been studying ants for 30 years, and their climbing abilities never cease to amaze me.
Human hands vs. ant feet
To comprehend ant feet, it can help to compare them with human hands. Your hand has one broad segment, the palm. Sprouting from your own palm are four fingers and an opposable thumb. Each finger has three segments, while your thumb has only two segments. A difficult nail grows from the tips of one’s fingers and thumb.
Humans have two handsants have six feet. Ant feet act like the hands but tend to be more complex, having an additional group of weird-looking parts that enhance them.
Ant feet have five jointed segments, with the finish segment sporting a couple of claws. The claws are shaped such as a cats and may grip irregularities on walls. Each foot segment also offers thick and thin spines and hairs offering additional traction by sticking into microscopic pits on textured surfaces like bark. Claws and spines have the added advantage of protecting ant feet from hot pavement and sharp objects, in the same way the feet are protected by shoes.
However the feature that truly separates human hands from ant feet are inflatable sticky pads, called arolia.
Arolia can be found between your claws at the end of each ant foot. These balloonlike pads allow ants to defy gravity and crawl on ceilings or ultrahard surfaces like glass.
When an ant walks up a wall or across a ceiling, gravity causes its claws to swing wide and pull back. Simultaneously, its quads pump fluids in to the pads by the end of its feet, causing them to inflate. Thisbody fluid is named hemolymph, that is a sticky fluid much like your blood that circulates throughout an ants body.
Following the hemolymph pumps up the pad, a few of it leaks beyond your pad, that is how ants can adhere to a wall or perhaps a ceiling. However when an ant accumulates its foot, its quads contract and suck the majority of the fluid back to the pad and back up the leg. In this manner an ants blood is reused over and overpumped from the leg in to the pad, then sucked back up the legso none is left out.
Ants are feather-light, so six sticky pads are enough to carry them contrary to the pull of gravity on any surface. Actually, at home within their underground chambers,ants use their sticky pads to sleep on the ceiling. By sleeping on the ceiling, ants steer clear of the rush-hour traffic of other ants on the chamber floors.
A distinctive gait
Once you walk, your left and right feet alternate so one is on the floor as the other is in the air, continue. Ants also alternate their feet, with three at first glance and three in the air at the same time.
The walking pattern of ants isunique among six-legged insects. In ants, leading and back left feet are on the floor with the center right foot, as the front and back right feet and the center left foot come in the air. They switch. Its fun to attempt to copy this triangular pattern using three fingers on each hand.
Next time you see an ant crawling up a wall, look closely and you also might witness a few of these fascinating features at the job.