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J Theor Biol. 2012 Mar 21;297:17-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.12.003. Epub 2011 Dec 9.

Cataglyphis desert ants improve their mobility by raising the gaster.

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1
INM-Leibniz Institute for New Materials and Saarland University, Campus D2 2, D-66123 Saarbrücken, Germany.

Abstract

We analyze theoretically the moment of inertia of the desert ant Cataglyphis (C. bicolor and C. fortis) around a vertical axis through its own center of mass when the animal raises its gaster to a vertical position. Compared to the value when the gaster is horizontal, the moment of inertia is reduced to one half; this implies that when increasing its angular acceleration the ant need apply only half the level of torque when the gaster is raised, compared to when the gaster is lowered. As an example, we analyze the cases of an ant running on circular and sinusoidal paths. In both cases, the ant must apply a sideways thrust, anti-roll and anti-pitch torques to avoid toppling, and, on the circular path when accelerating and throughout the sinusoidal trajectory, a torque to enable turning as the path curves. When the ant is accelerating in a very tight circle or running on a very narrow sinusoidal path, in which the amplitude of the sinusoid is less than the length of the ant's body, the forces required for the turning torque can equal and exceed those required for the sideways thrust, and can be reduced significantly by the ant raising the gaster, whereas the foot-thrust for the anti-roll and anti-pitch torques rises only modestly when the gaster is up. This suggests that there may be an evolutionary advantage for employing the gaster-raising mode of locomotion, since this habit will allow desert ants to use lower forces and less energy, and perhaps run faster on more tortuous paths.

PMID:
22178639
DOI:
10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.12.003
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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