Maybe Frank Sinatra was right, the ant can’t move a rubber tree plant. But he knows exactly how many steps to get there. It turns out ants have internal pedometers that help them figure out exactly how many steps they must take to reach their food and get back to their nest. In a new study published in Science, researchers in Germany and Switzerland studied Saharan desert ants and found that, even in complete darkness, the insects were able to assess traveling distance correctly. After training them to walk to a feeder, the scientists put stilts on the ant’s legs to see if they would adjust to their new longer stride. Other ants had shortened legs. ‘These ants walking back homeward on stilts clearly overshot, whereas ants with shortened legs undershot with regard to their normal homing distance,’ said Matthias Wittlinger, the study’s lead author. The length to the feeding station was 10 meters, but those on stilts walked an extra five meters past their destination. Those with shortened legs undershot their goal by 4.25 meters. The researchers don’t believe that the ants are literally counting steps in their heads. Although the study […]

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