I’ve always been fascinated by those little tiny ant creatures. Just toiling away, day in and day out, maybe nighttime too, unless they relax like we humans do and just kick back and do whatever it is ants do when their not toiling.
But, that said, I’ve never been fascinated enough to wonder if ants count their steps when they’re walking. I mean, if I don’t count my own steps when I walk, why should an ant? And if ants actually do count their steps, why should I care?
Well, um, actually I don’t care if ants count their steps, but, (sigh) some scientists do.
Why? Because scientists do not think like the rest of us normal people do. And have a lot of time on their hands ever since creating monsters in Transylvania was outlawed.
Take for instance Sedeer el Showk, who has the following credentials. He has a M.Sc.in evolutionary biology, a B.Sc. in plant genetics, has a PhD and does research at the University of Helsinki. And me, with only a C minus in understanding the alphabet and what the heck M Sc’s, B Sc’s and PHD’s and KFC stand for.
So Sedeer, (we’ll call him “See” for short) is just about as industrious as those ants. And, just as inquisitive. How else can you explain that he took the time to write a blog about ants and if they count their steps.
WHY! Beats the livin’ stuffing outta me.
I’m still trying to figure out why cats barf within a one foot radius of where and when I’m eating breakfast or supper. Where the hell are those scientists when ya need them to study THAT?
So here’s what “See” discovered by reading about what other scientists did. AND, as I said, wrote a blog about it, which was very interesting, if you’ve ever wondered if ants count their steps, and if you secretly have a scientist fetish.
Now see, not “See,” if you can follow me on this. Several years ago, scientists published a study about how desert ants, (in deference to your normal everyday town and city ants) find their way home after foraging.
So, because the entire world was immediately drawn to this story, and, we all wanted to know if ants count their steps in order to find their way home, rather than dropping bread crumbs like Hansel and Gretel, because, as we all know, either birds will eat those crumbs, or other ants who couldn’t give a damn about finding their way home just eat those crumbs, “See” wrote in his blog about the findings of those scientists.
(For those of you who have no idea who the heck “Hansel & Gretel” are, and think it’s a Wall Street investment firm, watch the infomercial below.)
So how do you actually find out if ants count their steps? Other than asking an ant, or following him, or her, and see if they’re counting as they walk. Or perhaps carry tiny calculators with them.
Well, scientists figured out that ants knew the exact distance from their ant hole, or condos, to wherever is that ants go when ants go somewhere. They call it a “path integrator” which calculates the direct route home after their journeys. Kinda like an ant “GPS” system without having it in a car. With that knowledge, ants were able to find their way back home very easily. But, scientists had to prove this theory. So here’s what they came up with.
‘Soooo Fritz…how do vee find out how der ants use der path navigator if vee can’t talk to dem?”
“Hmmm. Vell Sigfried, vee glue little thingys to der feet of der ants to make dem taller and vee see how long it takes dem to get to vere dey are goin’.”
“Fritz….I dun’t get it?”
“Sigfried…das is simple. Da taller da ants da longer it vill take dem to get to vere day iss goin. So, vee den know if der ants get confuseder and get lost or vind der way back home.”
Yep…that’s what they did. They glued little tiny pig bristles to the little tiny ants legs, thereby making the ants taller and thereby attempting to either confuse the ants, because now they would have to take longer steps, being much taller, and therefore might not be able to find their way back home.
Did it work?
Well, according to “See’s” article and those scientists, the ants had adjusted to their new legs, donning new pairs of ant socks as well, and were able to make it out and back to their feeding sites without any trouble.
The experiment proved that when the ants had longer legs, they then took longer strides and overestimated just how far they had gone as well as overshooting their return trip. Conversely, ants with shorter legs, had a shorter stride and so they overestimated how far they had gone, stopping before they had reached the nest entrance. And, after a day of relaxing at home, the ants finally figured out how to adjust to their new legs and made it out and back from the feeding site with no problem.
Which ultimately proves that ants calculate distance based on how many steps they’ve taken. Which ultimately proves that ants, when considering various housing options, can indeed determine if their prospective residences should be required to have elevators installed or not.
So in the scope of everyday life how does all this scientific research help us humans?
Thanks to these scientists, and “See” who wrote the blog on this, we can now, as homeowners, determine if ants contribute to the electrical power usage in our homes by using small elevators to come and go from their nests to the feeding sites. Which are usually located either under our dinner tables, kitchen counters, cupboards, and wherever else we store or catch a snack.
We, as homeowners, trying to protect out goodies, can also determine the amount of effort and time it takes to catch these little suckers as well.
If ants with longer legs can travel faster, obviously we need to be able to move quickly by gluing pig bristles on our legs so that we can keep up with them. Those ants that have shorter legs, obviously will move a bit slower, so we can nail them in a heartbeat.
And finally, should you come across any ant that is not moving and seems to be using a calculator to determine how many steps he’s taken because he apparently seems to be either confused or lost, or does not have one of those ant GPS systems, or simply flunked math, squish the little sucker.
If he’s that stupid he’s only gonna screw it up for the other really smart ants who know how to count, use a GPS system, adjust to artificial legs, and know how to freak out a bunch of scientists by showing them they’re smarter than they are.
Oops…..there goes another rubber tree plant. (refer to song below)
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