Here's why scientists are making ants run on tiny treadmills
Scientists are making ants run on miniature treadmills so they can look at their brain patterns and work out how they navigate so well.
The ants are tethered to a mechanical ball which forces them to run but still allows them to change direction.
The device is made of styrofoam, and is held up by an air stream.
The researchers from the University of Freiburg measured the ants’ walking speed and orientation while they ran on the mill.
They were looking at Cataglyphis desert ants that are particularly good at navigation and always work out the most direct route back to their nests after going on quests for food.
The scientists allowed the ant to travel 10m from its nest, either in the wild or a lab, and then placed it on a treadmill. It then moved exactly as it would have on the ground to return home.
The study’s set-up allowed scientists to use optical sensors to record exactly how the ant moved.
It sounds a little cruel, but the research will help engineers create better, more agile tiny robots in future.
Which sound almost as scary as being forced to run on an eternally moving treadmill.
Their research was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.