How Do Ants Walk?

Ants are incredible creatures.  They are excellent at working in groups to forage food. Ants are also not as lacking in intelligence like you may think. For example, an old study demonstrated that a single ant could find its way home after traveling long distances.

This may not sound impressive, but for an organism with a brain as large as a speck of dust, this is intelligent behavior. Since the study showed that ants could find their way back to their homes, the scientists naturally concluded that ants are capable of surveying their environment and storing memories that help them find their way home. However, a strange type of ant is challenging this old conclusion by showing that they can walk backwards and still know where they were going, as though they have eyes on the backs of their heads.

After observing ants walking backwards, scientists are now under the impression ants do not use visual-spatial reasoning or their memory to find their way back to their nests. Instead, researchers are now focused on the results of a new study that demonstrates ants use the landscape and sky to navigate their way back to their homes.

Ants Walk Backwards For a Reason

Foraging desert ants typically crawl in a forward fashion. It is only when an ant is carrying something very heavy relative in size to its body that it walks backwards. In these scenarios, walking backwards gives these ants a greater advantage, and they don’t need to expend as much energy as they would if they had to turn their bodies around.

The researchers split these ants into two groups. One group had a light object to carry while the second group had a heavier object. To the amazement of the researchers, the ants that walked backwards made it back to their homes just as quickly and accurately as the ants walking forwards.

Have you ever wondered why you sometimes see ants crawling backwards?