Weight lifting ant wins contest

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PostMon Feb 22, 2010 12:11 pm » by Abyssdnb


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Asian Weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) can carry weights of more than 100 times their own body weight whilst upside down on a smooth surface.


It is an image that says everything about the determination of the tiny insects.

The entry, which shows an Asian weaver ant holding a 500 milligram weight in its jaws, has been named the overall winner of the inaugural Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) science photo competition.
The winning image was taken by Thomas Endlein from the University of Cambridge, who was investigating how ants and other insects' feet can stick to surfaces. He won £700 worth of photographic equipment vouchers.

Asian Weaver ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) can carry weights of more than 100 times their own body weight whilst upside down on a smooth surface.

To do this, they have incredibly sticky pads on their feet. However, this does not stop them from running quickly across such surfaces.

Research has revealed how they cope with the conflict of sticking to a surface but not getting stuck.

"Ants can change the size and shape of the pads on their feet depending on the load they are carrying," said Dr Endlein.

"If they have to carry heavy loads they increase the contact area, and when they need to run they decrease it."

Dr Endlein added that as well as shedding light on ants' seemingly gravity-defying feats, the research could help scientists develop better glues.

"The pads on ants' feet are self-cleaning and can stick to almost any type of surface," he said.

"No man-made glue or adhesive system can match this.

"Understanding how animals can control their adhesive systems should help us come up with clever adhesives in the future."

BBSRC-funded researchers were asked to submit images that capture the excitement of new knowledge, the intricacies of research or the sheer beauty of the natural world.

Paul Gemmill, the BBSRC Director of Communications and Information Management, said: “The entrants gave the competition judges a difficult job because the standard of images entered for the competition was remarkably high.

“The creative flair shown by scientists in our community is impressive and their skill in using photographs to communicate ideas in bioscience is highly commendable.

"We would like to congratulate the winners and thank everyone who entered for their efforts in creating these really wonderful images.”

BBSRC is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences.

Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life in the UK and beyond.

It supports a number of important industrial stakeholders, including the agriculture, food, chemical, health care and pharmaceutical sectors.
Image "Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it."

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