Like a desert ant, how do you find your nest among all that sand?

Like a desert ant, how do you find your nest among all that sand?

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To find food and their nest mates, desert ants have to travel huge distances of up to 2 kilometers in extreme conditions. And if they can find something to eat in that enormous, burning mass of sand, they face an even bigger challenge: finding the nest.

One species of ant, which lives in the salt fields of Tunisia, has attracted the attention of researchers for its remarkable navigational skills. This ant uses different tactics to quickly find its way back to the nest in extreme conditions. An indoor compass that uses the sun helps determine their whereabouts along with an indoor pedometer. What they also developed was the ability to use the elements in the landscape to find their way back.

But what if it isn’t there? It has been observed that the nests of these ants, when there are no vegetation or mounds nearby, have a spike at the entrance. If the researchers removed that elevation, many of the ants, who had been tracked using GPS, could no longer find the entrance. The residents of the nest also went to work like crazy to restore the mountain. But if the researchers place an item like a small black cylinder near the removed elevation, the ants won’t rebuild it.

How the nest determines that construction should be done quickly remains a mystery. Nest occupants may notice that fewer ants are returning, and this is the way to start.

Read more about research here: The desert ant increases the visibility of its nest entrances when there are no landmarks.

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