Ants in space!


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By studying the behavior of eight colonies of ants sent to ISS, scientists have discovered that ants can adapt to weightlessness, though they do not do quite as well as their gravity-bound counterparts.

To start the experiment, a barrier was removed that allowed them to explore a new area. After a few minutes, a second barrier was lifted, expanding the available territory even further. “The idea is to ask the ants to search a small space – and then provide more space and see what will happen when the same number of ants have to use a larger space,” Prof Gordon explained. Equivalent experiments were also run back on Earth, for comparison.

Down on ground level, adding extra space and dropping the “density” of ants caused them to adjust their paths, covering more ground and spreading out much more. In this way, nearly every corner of the container was visited by more than one ant within five minutes. The ants in space still did their best to search, moving out into the expanded area as expected – but they were nowhere near as effective as their counterparts on the ground, which had the luxury of normal gravity.

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3 comments

  • PeterF

    Perhaps they were less efficient because they had come from a gravity environment and reacted as creatures in an alien environment. I wonder how this experiment will proceed with ants that have been raised for several generations in microgravity?
    I’ve always wondered how an octopus would react to microgravity…There is speculation that they may be the most intelligent sea creature we know of.

  • I for one welcome our new insect overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted Internet personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.

  • pzatchok

    I have just one stupid question.

    Why do we keep spending money and time testing these animals out in zero G condition when we know full well that by the time we start needing them in space it will be in an artificial gravity structure?

    If we go ahead and build another station and its not under at least partial gravity then I believe we will not be taking a step forward but instead back.

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