Skip to main content
Email Print Share

Discovery Files - "Airborne Ants"

Discovery Files
Audio Play Audio


Discovery Files - "Airborne Ants"

Credit: NSF/Clear Channel Communications/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Whoa...you caught me with my ants down.

I'm Bob Karson with "The Discovery Files" -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

If I told you I had an aunt who took up hang-gliding, you wouldn't think it that unusual. It's just that the ant I'm talking about is of the insect variety...and does its flying in the tropical rainforest of Peru.

Steven Yanoviak , an insect ecologist, was doing work about a hundred feet off the ground in the rainforest canopy, when he casually brushed some ants off a limb.

To his surprise, they didn't fall, but glided in a controlled manner...back to the trunk of the same tree! In subsequent, more structured tests, he discovered that they had the ability to do precision mid-air turns...as much as 180 degrees...probably using their flat heads and flanges to guide their flight. This talent most likely evolved when primitive ants lost their wings and needed to elude predators from above and below.

Hang-gliding ants. What's next...base jumping beetles?

"The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov.

 
General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.