August 29, 2020
Not too long ago, I spotted this ant from the Formica pallidefulva group carrying this dried-up piece of earthworm up a wall. It got me wondering: just how much weight can an ant carry?
As it turns out, about six years ago, a group of engineers at Ohio State University came up with a wonderfully weird method of testing that exact question. They decided to determine just how much weight an ant's neck joint could withstand. The way they did this was by taking a bunch of ants, anesthetizing them, and then gluing their heads to a small centrifuge. They then spun the centrifuge at high speed until the ants' bodies ... well ... flew off.
"We had to put a Plexiglass barrier around the centrifuge to protect the grad students because the ant bodies would go flying at the moment of rupture," said engineer Carlos Castro in the article I found at insidescience.org. On a side note, engineer Carlos Castro is a guy I'd like to hang out with, he clearly knows how to have a good time.
This experiment suggested that an ant's neck can withstand between 3,400 and 5,000 times the weight of its body. If you weigh 150 pounds, that would be the equivalent of supporting 750,000 pounds with your neck!
It's been estimated that if all the ants in the world were to put aside their differences and combine forces, they would be strong enough to carry all of humanity on their tiny backs. Maybe something to think about the next time you're spraying ant killer on some little visitors in your kitchen...
Thank you to VMNH Associate Curator of Recent Invertebrates and ant expert Dr. Kal Ivanov for the identification! #BenInNature
ABOUT THIS POST
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. While he is working from home, Administrator of Science Ben Williams is venturing outdoors each day to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world.
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