Ant Aerobatics

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Ant aerobatics described in news@nature, 9 Feb 2005 and Nature, vol 433, p624, 10 Feb 2005. Ants that live high in the tree tops of Brazilian rainforest are able to steer themselves through the air if they fall or are dislodged from a branch. Stephen Yanoviak first observed this when he brushed off some ants that attacked him when he was climbing a tree. He noticed that the ants “made a nice J-shaped curve back to the tree”. He and some colleagues then made videos of falling ants and found they flew backwards, i.e. abdomen first, and steered themselves in the right direction using their hind limbs, which are shaped like oars. The ants live in colonies that inhabit a single tree so their directional gliding enables them to stay in their home tree, even if they get bumped or blown off. This behaviour is believed to have evolved to enable the ants to avoid being hopelessly lost from their colony and eaten by predators. Nigel Franks of the University of Bristol, UK commented: ”There are so many ants in the canopy of rainforests. It won't be surprising if we see more beautifully evolved behaviours like this.”

Editorial Comment: The behaviour may be beautiful (to an ant expert) and it may have survival value, but it requires a lot of faith to believe it came about by chance random mutations. Any mutation that made the ants' abdomens and legs the right aerodynamic shapes had at the same time to program its brain so it knew how to turn itself in the right direction to make use of its newly evolved shape. It is far more logical to believe this useful behaviour was programmed into ant brains by the Creator who at the same time had designed their bodies to be able to glide backwards. (Ref. design, survival, self-preservation)

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