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The Ants Go Marching One by One – Through Microgravity

posted: 04/01/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Pavement ants at work
mehampson/iStock

A new study from Stanford University reveals that ants have an impressive ability to navigate microgravity environments.

Last year, Stanford biologist Dr. Deborah M. Gordon sent a colony of pavement ants to the International Space Station to study the ants' collective behavior in a non-Earth environment. As expected, the ants were quick to fan out and explore their new environment.

Gordon, however, was surprised at how well the ants were able to climb. Even when the lack of gravity resulted in "tumbling around or skidding rapidly in a Michael Jackson-type move", the ants quickly regained their footing and continued exploring. Some ants even attached themselves to other ants in order to re-stabilize themselves.

"Ants frequently lost contact with the surface, but showed a remarkable ability to regain contact with the surface," Gordon noted in her study.

Looking forward, Gordon plans to apply information learned from the ants to developing algorithms that will determine how robots execute search and rescue operations in dangerous environments.

Click here to read the full report from Stanford

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