Show Details

Silver Ants Keep Cool

April 18, 2016

Ultra-reflective silver ants stay cool in desert temperatures topping 120˚ Fahrenheit.

Transcript

Silver ant workers and a large-headed soldiers outside nest P. Landmann, Willot et al

Silver ant workers and a large soldier outside a nest. (P. Landmann, Willot, et al)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Extreme insect adaptation. Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The baking heat of the Sahara desert sends most life underground. But one hardy creature, the silver ant, ventures out to scavenge for food during the hottest part of the day.

SERGE ARON (University of Brussels):

They are particularly conspicuous thanks to their silver color, and they look like small mirrors. It is a really amazing spectacle.

HIRSHON:

That’s biologist Serge Aron of the University of Brussels, who says despite the ants’ flashiness, their predators don’t bother with them under the brutal midday sun. He and his colleagues report in the journal PLOS ONE that the triangular structure of tiny hairs covering the insects’ bodies allows them to reflect 10 times as much light as hairless ants. That’s the secret to staying cool in temperatures topping 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Aron says the ants are inspiring design improvements to thermoregulating outdoor sportswear. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard

Reflective hairs on the heads and abdomens of Sahara Silver ants. P. Landmann, Willot et al

Reflective hairs on the heads and abdomens of Sahara Silver ants. (P. Landmann, Willot et al