Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Do Ants Count? A Fascinating Scientific Study

NPR recently had a story called "Ants That Count!"

"Can ants count? Not out loud they can't. Not the way you and I count. But an ingenious experiment conducted in the Sahara suggests maybe ants do count."

Ants use a variety of ways to travel home after their journeys. In the forest, they leave a scent trail. Celestial clues are also used by some ants to help them travel home. One commentor on the article says that desert ants use a polarized light map to help them with their directions. This study looked at desert ants whose scent trail might be lost in the desert. The experiment was simple and is wonderfully explained in this video (if you are squeamish about the little ants realize that in the experiment little ant legs were cut off some ants- although the video is a cartoon-you may not appreciate that fact). Anyhow, interesting things happened when ants were put on little ant stilts or had their legs cut off at the knee. They seemed to count their steps as if they had normal ant legs and never made it home. On stilts they travel too far and with cut off legs, they didn't travel far enough.

The experiment concludes that,

"Ants don't have maps in their heads and don't recognize markers along the route. This experiment strongly suggests that ants do have internal pedometers that allow them to "count" their way home."

I think the video would be interesting for a class to view as the scientific process and thinking is explained in an easy to understand way.

Listen to the story here.

This story reminds me of the Proverb, "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!"

Well. I guess ants are pretty smart about things, but they still can't compare with a talking horse!


Mrs Hopson said...

Mr Ed I remember him so well and the tune. Goodness knows why but I did watch the programme
Thanks for the memory

Jim Hansen said...

And Connie Hines who played Wilbur's wife just died yesterday.


"Ms. Hines played Carol, Wilbur’s patient and long-suffering wife.

Ms. Hines had “a tough chore,” Mr. Young said.

“She was a girl married to a fellow listening to a horse,” he explained. “Her biggest line was ‘Lunch is ready.’ ” "