Ants that find direction by counting their steps

How ants cover very long distances to search for food and then return  to their nests infallibly has been a very important subject of research for scientists for many years. Direction finding, which is one of the most striking qualities of desert ants that dwell in the Sahara, has encouraged scientists to do more research on this, despite the fact that they are known to benefit from the Sun’s direction.

It was previously known that Sahara ants, which look for food by zigzagging, follow the opposite direction to the zigzags after they reach their food and turn back to their nests, even though there are no markings or landmarks  in deserts to use for finding directions, and that they use the Sun’s direction in a surprising way.

However, specialists from the University of Ulm in Germany and the University of Zurich in Switzerland have broadened their research and made new research as to how ants find their ways in places with plant cover. As a result, it was discovered that these beings go back to their nests by counting their steps. This quality of these small creatures was of course formidable. The Sahara ants, which are also called catalglyphis fortis, also reached their nests by taking the exact number of steps on their way back.

The following experiment was conducted to reach this conclusion:

Scientists made Sahara ants  walk from their nests to their food on a straight path. After the ants reached their food, meaning after they had memorized the distance between the nest and the food, they made additions to the half of the ants’ legs using materials suitable to their physiologies and elongated their stepping distances. So they enlarged the ants’ stride.

The legs of the other half of the ants were shortened with an operation, thus their steps were made smaller. The reason that their stepping distances were changed was to observe whether they measured the distances they had learned since the moment they left their nests using their steps or not.

Those ants with a longer leg length, meaning that they took  bigger steps, went past their nests. Those with shorter leg lengths, meaning that they took shorter steps, stopped before they reached their nests. However, once the ants got used to their new leg lengths, they adjusted their steps, re-learned the nest-to-food distance, and went back and forth between their nests and food.

As a result of this experiment, the research team directed by Harald Wolf, Neurobiologist from the University of Ulm, concluded that ants counted their steps.

The ant is a living being, which does not have consciousness, intelligence, the ability to decide, nor can it make judgments or reason. There is no doubt that it is not possible that this living being goes out of its nest, goes to the food by counting its steps, and then turns back to its nest by counting its steps again. Sahara ants, just like every other being, act with the inspiration sent to them, and maintain their lives by means of the order and control of our Lord, since the first moment they were created.


There is no creature He does not hold by the forelock.... (Surah Hud, 56)

2011-07-24 05:46:22

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