Overall winner – Asian Weaver ant, upside down on a smooth surface, and carrying a weight in its jaws
An incredible image of a tiny ant carrying 100 times its own body weight, while hanging upside down from a glass-like surface, has won first prize in a national science photo competition. The amazing picture was snapped by scientists at Cambridge University by a team in the department of zoology investigating the extraordinary sticky feet of ants and other insects. (Pics)
The image, taken by Dr Thomas Endlein, shows an Asian weaver ant, upside down on a smooth surface, carrying a 500mg weight in its jaws.
Other pictures in the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) science photo competition included a crow using a stick to fish food, a killer whale and a salmon caught in a net.
Winner of the Concepts category – New Caledonian crow using a stick to fish food out of a small hole.
“It won first prize because it was a beautiful image and managed to convey complex science,” said the BBSRC.
Weaver ants use their feet and their legs to achieve their sticky feats.
Dr Endelin: said: “Ants can change the size and shape of the pads on their feet depending on the load they are carrying. If they have to carry heavy loads they increase the contact area, and when they need to run they decrease it.”
The ants’ legs also play a part in the insects’ stickiness by making clever use of what scientists call “peeling forces”.
“If you think about peeling off sticky tape from a surface, it’s easiest when you peel at a steep, rather than a shallow, angle.
“Ants use the same mechanism: when they want to stick, they keep their legs at a shallow angle relative to the surface, and when they want to release their legs they increase this angle and peel off easily,” he added.
Runner up in the Concepts category – Southern Resident killer whale in Puget Sound, USA.
Winner in the Agriculture, Food, Diet and Health category – mites (Acari), springtails (Collembola) and other insects that were collected from a soil sample.
Runner up in the Agriculture, Food, Diet and Health category – a composite image showing tiny blood vessels from skeletal muscle as viewed under a microscope, with smoke apparently weaving in between.
Winner of the People category – fisherman catching wild salmon in Puget Sound, USA.
Runner up in the People category – a composite image of a researcher working with a pipette and small tube with a sheet of equations overlaid.