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Discovery Files - "Airborne Ants"

Discovery Files
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Discovery Files - "Airborne Ants"

Credit: NSF/Clear Channel Communications/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript: 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 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?

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